Nottingham teachers fight five-term year plan

Submitted by Matthew on 18 April, 2012 - 11:16

Nottingham teachers struck for a second day on 17 March in their campaign of industrial action against the Local Authority.

Inspired by Michael Gove's plans to change school holiday patterns, the Labour-controlled council has attempted to force through a change to a five term year in Nottingham city schools.

Implementation of the five term year will mean a shortening of the six week summer holiday to four weeks and a regular pattern of eight week terms.

Members of all teaching unions — including a majority of head teachers in the city — and the body representing school governors have rejected the plan. Nottingham city National Union of Teachers balloted its members for strike action after an overwhelming response from ordinary teachers. NASUWT and other school based unions are yet to act, although there are some signs that they could join action shortly.

The NUT's opposition and the subsequent industrial action are not simply a response to the shortening of the summer holiday. The union does argue that a long summer holiday is necessary for both teachers and young people. Necessary for teachers because they need time to recover and recuperate from an emotionally, intellectually and physically exhausting academic year. Necessary for young people for exactly the same reason. Additionally, the NUT argues that young people need time away from school, time to play, time to interact with others in a non-academic setting and time to learn and experience the things that school cannot teach.

If Nottingham Labour councillors succeed in changing to a four week summer break, young people in the city will have the shortest summer break in the world bar South Korea. South Korea has the highest recorded child suicide rate in the world.

In addition, the change would only affect schools under direct control of the city council.

This means the majority of secondary schools — Foundation, Voluntary Aided and Academy schools — will retain a different holiday pattern to the majority of city primaries. Additionally, schools in the county, some of them across the road from neighbouring city schools, will retain the traditional holiday patterns. This in turn means that brothers and sisters attending different schools could have completely different holiday patterns. Not only that, but teachers who happen to be parents could end up seeing very little of their children!

Despite significant pressure from the local press, the unions and building pressure from the local community, Nottingham city council has so far refused to budge. Councillors and local education officials seem determined to go it alone, using Gove's Tory proposals as a political tool to whack teachers, children and their families over the head.

The NUT has a third day of industrial action planned and may well take further action in the short term to see off these proposals.

This is a fight not just for teachers but for the well-being, mental and physical health of the young people they teach.

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