Parents are being asked to have their say on plans to shift school holidays around to create a week off during the off-peak season.
The proposals have been drawn up in response to Brighton mum Annie Heath’s suggestion for ways to make taking a holiday cheaper for families.
While councillors said they were open to the concept, the idea has sharply divided opinion amongst families who would benefit, and those who would be inconvenienced.
Now, an official consultation, running online until Friday, May 20, aims to gauge opinion before a final decision is made.
Annie Heath said she was thrilled that her suggestion had prompted the survey. She said: “I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
“What I suggested was encouraging schools to think about changing inset days individually and putting them together, because that’s what schools in other parts of the country have done.
“The council looked at what it has the authority to do itself, and came up with this amazing holiday week.
“When I first suggested the idea, lots of people were saying it’s brilliant and such an obvious thing to do, but a subset felt that it wouldn’t help them.
“At the moment, the holiday system works for about 40% of people. If we can get it to work for 75% or 90% of people, that’s brilliant.”
The chair of the council’s children, young people and skills committee, Councillor Tom Bewick, said: “If there is something we can do to offer lower-income families in particular the chance to take holidays that would otherwise be unaffordable then I think it’s worth exploring.
“We’re keen to hear the views of parents, pupils, teachers, trade unions other interested parties who might be affected.
“Ultimately our plans are about offering more flexibility for parents throughout the year, while trying to respond to the fact that modern families come in all shapes and sizes.”
The proposal is to vary the start and finish dates of the three terms to allow for the creation of a week’s holiday in what is currently term time. This could allow parents to buy a cheaper holiday without taking their child out of school during term time.
It is thought a more flexible approach to the academic year could also help families who have to work in peak holiday times and those who have difficult shift patterns, as well as armed forces personnel who can be away from their children for months on end.
The cost of holidays taken in the school holidays is also higher than the equivalent holiday in term time. This means that many families cannot afford to take the sort of holiday they would wish to take when their children are out of school.
The council sets the academic year dates for community, voluntary controlled and community special schools in the city. For foundation and voluntary aided schools this is done by the school’s governing body.
For academies and free schools it is done by the trust that runs the school. All state schools in the city currently follow the council’s academic year, but the academies and free schools are under no obligation to do so in future.
Schools have five inset days each year when they are closed to enable training and development for teachers. Individual schools make their own decisions about when to take inset days.
The council has no powers to force schools to select or coordinate certain dates, but could encourage them to do so in order to enable families to take advantage of lower-priced holidays.
Feedback from the consultation will be taken into account when the council’s children, young people and skills committee looks at the issue at a meeting in June.
It is expected that the committee will either make specific proposals for changing the academic year in future or agree to leave the city’s academic year in its current form.
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