Nottingham teachers to strike next week over five-term year

Fri, Apr 13, 2012, 01:00

TEACHERS IN Nottingham in England are to go on strike next week over plans by the city council to introduce a five-term school year and cut summer holidays to four weeks.

From September 2013, the city council intends to introduce five terms beginning in late July, rather than three now; with each, bar the summer, separated by a fortnight’s break.

The summer holidays, which are already shorter than those enjoyed by Irish schools, would be cut to four weeks from six, with schools closing for the last week of July, returning on August 28th.

The city’s 4,000 teachers have already been warned by the Labour-led council that they must accept the new conditions or be sacked and then be offered a contract under the new terms.

Rejecting the sacking threat as “aggressive”, National Union of Teachers regional secretary Ian Stevenson said the council plans not to pay redundancy to any teacher refusing to accept the new conditions.

Teachers in the city have already struck over the issue. Further disruptions are now planned for April 17th and 25th, with the union warning it will not accept cuts in teachers’ conditions.

Defending its move, the local authority has said the change would improve pupils’ results and attendance as shorter terms “can help children to be more motivated and less tired”.

Equally, they would be less likely to forget what they have learned “over a shorter summer holiday”, while parents would benefit from being able to take breaks more evenly throughout the year.

Up to 70 schools in the city have already faced strikes last June and November over plans to increase teachers’ pension contributions and raise retirement ages.

The city council’s desire for a five-term year has been influenced by the city’s Djanogly City Academy, which already operates it, along with teaching 11-year-olds about international trade and other subjects.

Last week Nottingham teacher Tom Unterrainer told the union conference there was no evidence to prove that “learning loss” takes place over the summer.

Describing a five-term year as “a major attack” on working conditions, delegate Sheena Wheatley said the changes “would have a major effect on our workload and ultimately our health”.

She continued: “I don’t think I need to describe the impact of shortening the summer break, not just for us and our families, but also for the young people that we work with.”

Another teacher, John Illingworth, said if the plans went ahead, Nottingham will have “the shortest school summer break in the world” – shorter even than South Korea’s.

If it succeeds, Nottingham will be the first council in Britain to introduce a five-term year, but other councils are watching events closely, according to education experts.