School terms

It’s a week since half term – but it seems like at least a month!   I can’t believe how hectic it’s been.

Admittedly, that’s partly to do with my specific job  – I had an evening meeting for parents about UCAS on Tuesday, lots of odds and ends on the timetable to finish off, and of course public exams are still going on, and still need running, but there’s more teaching to do as most of the kids are back in classes.  Oh, and I had to set cover for this coming week because I am going to visit Maastricht university for 3 days on Monday (no, it’s not a jolly. Well, OK, it’s not JUST a jolly – Maastricht uni is increasingly popular with UK students as they teach almost entirely in English, have very low fees and quite reasonable entry requirements).

It’s not just me though – a lot of my colleagues were also running round like the proverbial headless chickens too. The main reason is that this half term is so compressed due to the bank holiday being a week later than normal, so all the normal activities – from school trips to report-writing – are arriving on top of each other with no time to draw breath.

That started me thinking about the way school terms are organised. I know there have been quite a lot of suggestions for changing them for a while, such as the “four term year”. Have never been that keen on changing – partly for the purely selfish reason that I end up in school quite a lot in the summer (exam results/ UCAS) and so want time for a break too, but also because I like the way the long holiday enables kids to go on things like the long World Challenge expeditions without it taking the entire time – it’s also a good time for them to work on Level 2 or Extended Projects.

I reckon the main annoying thing about the current structure is the way the term lengths vary so wildly from year to year, mainly due to the dates of Easter (and this year, of course, to the Queen. But she isn’t a habitual offender in the same way).   It does make it difficult for planning and over-long terms don’t do the kids’ education any favours. It doesn’t have to be like that – when I was at university, they paid absolutely no attention to the dates of bank holidays or similar – the term structure and length was exactly the same each year.  They didn’t even give us the bank holiday off if it fell in term time!  OK, schools couldn’t get away with forcing everyone in on a bank holiday, but a more standardised structure would be much better for everyone.

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