“Education advantages” in bringing forward Autumn term, says Plaid
Plaid Cymru has said there could be “educational advantages” in bringing forward the start of the autumn term.
Plaid Cymru MS and Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian said it would be better for pupils as it would provide better continuity, progression and stability at a time of huge upheaval for children and young people.
Ms Gwenllian added that this could further pave the way for much-needed permanent changes providing an opportunity to think about re-configuring the traditional three term year in a way that would be less disjointed and more in tune with modern-day needs.
An independent review Teaching: A Valued profession has previously called on Welsh Government to establish a commission to look into 're-imagining' our schools to make them more conducive to learning and more family-friendly.
Ms Gwenllian said research had shown that “continuity and progression” were important elements of learning. She said that currently teachers and pupils experience “intense half terms” followed by a short holiday and that this caused both teachers and pupils to become tired. Ms Gwenllian added that many teachers say that the summer term is “too long” - especially for children who are not supported with their learning at home.
The Shadow Education Minister said now “may be the time” to “re-visit” discussions in the wake of the Coronavirus crisis and that now may be the time to consider changing school terms “permanently”.
On Friday, the National Education Union (NEU) Cymru said plans for Wales' school summer holidays to be brought forward a month had been abandoned.
However, Ms Gwenllian said bringing this year’s summer holidays forward should continue to be “fully explored” with phased and gradual re-opening of schools in August only if it was safe to do so.
But the Shadow Education Minister stressed that in the meantime, remote learning should be refined and that the focus of each school should be engaging with every pupil and ensure no child was “left behind”.
Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Education Sian Gwenllian MS said,
“The educational advantages of bringing this year's summer holidays forward and beginning the autumn term in August should continue to be fully explored A phased and gradual re-opening of schools could then start in August if it is safe to do so.
“Before the Coronavirus crisis there were on-going discussions about school term lengths and the need to change from three to four school terms and making the summer holidays shorter.
“With need to re-visit those discussions in the wake of Coronavirus and now may be the time to consider changing school terms permanently and to reconfigure the annual school pattern.
“At the moment in Wales, terms are of different lengths with holidays coming irregularly and yet research shows that continuity and progression are important elements of learning. Currently teachers and pupils experience the intense half term followed by a short holiday. Towards the end of each term everyone is very tired. On the other hand, many teachers say that the summer term is too long, with the first few weeks of the autumn term being used for catch-up, especially for children who are not supported with their learning at home.
“In the meantime, we must crucially continue to refine remote learning. This should be central to the plans for the gradual re-opening of schools. It should also be integral to future planning too as we continue to strive to close the digital/poverty divide and the attainment gap. The focus of our education system must be on engaging with every pupil and ensuring no child is left behind.