Third of academy schools 'cutting long summer holidays'28 March 2012
Some 36 per cent of schools are altering – or planning to alter – the traditional academic year in an attempt to raise standards, it was revealed.
In one case, an academy is cutting the summer break in July and August from six to just three weeks to reduce the amount of time children spend out of school. Others are imposing four-week breaks.
The move allows schools to introduce more regular term dates throughout the rest of the year and give pupils longer half-term holidays.
It comes despite warnings from the National Union of Teachers last week that they would be prepared to take industrial action in schools across Britain to protect the long summer break.
The disclosure is made in a report by the think-tank Reform into the way in which academies – state schools run free of local authority interference – are using their independence.
Currently around 1,600 of the 22,000 schools in England are academies.
According to the study, some 20.6 per cent of academies have already altered the school year and 15.3 per cent are planning to do so.
It also emerged that around 17 per cent of schools are lengthening – or planning to lengthen – the school day.
But the report, which was published in conjunction with The Schools Network, a not-for-profit membership organisation, found that large numbers of academies were frustrated by their inability to properly break free of local authority control.
It found that the vast majority of academies were not using their freedom to alter staff pay and conditions or introduce programmes designed to reward the best-performing teachers.
The report – based on a survey of 500 academies – found that 20 per cent of academies believed that union opposition “makes it very difficult to vary pay and conditions in my school”.
Dale Bassett, research director at Reform, said the results “explode the myth” of campaigners that an expansion of academies would lead to the “disintegration of the state education system”.
He also said the study should “encourage ministers to strengthen the freedoms provided to academies and other schools”.
But a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “This survey backs up what head teachers have been telling us: that academy status frees them to get on with raising standards – without meddling from local or national politicians.
“In a short space of time, hundreds of academies have adapted their curriculum; a third have changed term times to suit pupils and parents; and they are rightly enjoying more control over their finances."