Extra holiday week proposed for Haverhill schools

The chief executive of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust has said that proposals to reduce the academic year at its schools by one week will not happen if the majority oppose it.

The trust has today ended a short period of consultation with staff and parents over its proposal to add one extra week to the October half-term, making it two weeks instead of one.

Should the change be agreed it would affect all eight Haverhill schools in the trust: Samuel Ward, Castle Manor, Westfield, Place Farm, Burton End, Clements, Churchill and Coupals.

Dr Tim Coulson said: “The idea behind this is that the autumn term is particularly long and it is a time where we typically see more staff and children taking time off with sickness. We wanted to see if we could break the term up to combat this.

“The second week would also give parents an opportunity to have a holiday away from the traditional half term, and therefore be more cost-effective for them.

“We naturally wanted to consult all staff and parents within our Haverhill schools before making a decision.

“We truly value the opinion of all our staff members and parents and we have so far had a variety of views.

“I would like to thank everyone who has already made their opinions known.”

One parent, who didn’t want to be named, contacted the Echo to voice her concerns over the changes.

She said: “The reason for them doing this, they say, is that pupils’ sickness is so bad in the autumn term but my children have a 100 per cent attendance so why should my children miss out on education because other children are poorly.

“The way the letter has been written, a lot of parents will read it and think they are moving days to allow for another week at another time but they are not doing that, they are giving them five days less education than they would get at a local education authority school. “

The parent questioned why children at a trust school should receive five days less education in an academic year than a child at a school that is not part of the trust, such as New Camgle Primary School, and whether it would affect the funding per pupil that each school received.

Dr Coulson said: “I want to reassure people this is certainly not about cost-cutting and there will be no alterations to either the hours of our valued support staff or to other existing school holidays.

“Every single view will be listened to. I also want to stress that if the majority of responses come back saying they don’t like the proposals, then we will not go ahead with them.

“While if the majority say they want a second week of half-term in October, we will trial it for one year, starting in September 2018.

“We will then see how it works before making a more permanent decision.

“Another idea within the proposals is to increase our enrichment programme within our primary and secondary schools in Haverhill to ensure more students have access to a greater number of groups and clubs.

“Once again, we value all the feedback we are getting from staff and parents on this.”

Dr Coulson also confirmed that a reduction in teaching days per student would have no affect on the funding received by the schools.