Unity Schools Partnership has begun consulting with staff and parents across all our schools over plans to extend the October half term.
Schools and the Trust are consulting with staff and parents over whether they agree that a second week at the Autumn Half Term break would be beneficial.
Each school has considered ways they could adjust the timetable over the rest of the year to ensure that no learning time is lost for pupils and each school has made a proposal for this that best suits the school and their pupils.
The consultation will run until Monday 13th March with the Trust expected to make a decision on term dates for academic year 2023-2024 by the end of March.
What are the proposals?
Across Unity Schools Partnership, we recognise that our greatest asset is our staff. You all play an incredibly important and influential role in ensuring our children receive the education they deserve, day in day out.
We, along with other schools and trusts up and down the country, have two major challenges we need to tackle:
- High absence rates of staff and pupils during the Autumn Term
- Recruitment challenges for both teaching and classroom support staff. Currently, recruitment is difficult across all sectors, particularly the public sector. We are looking to both retain our current, excellent staff and recruit the very best staff when our vacancies arise.
We have been researching and discussing strategies used nationally that could support improvements for both these issues in our schools across the trust. There are two main strategies that we believe will address the challenges listed above.
Firstly, we are looking to provide the best professional development opportunities, and, where staff are looking for promotion or other career changes, we aim to provide opportunities for this too. This will help us to retain staff by providing another position in another school, provide a progression opportunity in the same school or another school or offer a change of career path within the trust.
Secondly, having looked at the way some trusts and schools organise the school year differently, we are provisionally looking to make an adjustment to the dates in the autumn term 2023. This will support recruitment of the very best staff but mostly, we believe, could reduce absence rates in the Autumn Term. Your good health and wellbeing is essential to the education of our pupils. The long Autumn Term, and emerging viruses at that time of year, seem to combine to create higher than usual staff (and pupil) absences, particularly in November.
By adding five days to the October half term, we believe this will impact positively on the physical, emotional and mental health of our staff and pupils, and decrease absence during this term. An added benefit of this strategy is that it creates a second week, during which staff and pupils’ families can take a more affordable holiday. We are very clear that we do not authorise pupil absence for holidays during school terms, and we know that a major reason for families making such requests is the higher cost of holidays during school holiday periods.
As part of a trust, academies, including free schools, can set their own term dates and school day. Over the past few years, many academies have chosen to extend the October half-term to two weeks. Extending the October half term by five days, of course, means we will need to ensure that those five days are made up at another time to ensure that there is no learning time missed for any pupil. There are a variety of strategies used by other trusts and schools, but we must do what’s best for our school and pupils.
The consultation will close on Monday 13th March with a decision on term dates for the academic year 2023-2024 expected by the end of March. To submit your comments please email: firstname.lastname@example.org