A sweeping change to the six-month school holiday in October has sparked anger from thousands of parents.
A petition has been started by parents saying it will cost them more because their children will get an extra week of holiday this year during the autumn break.
The Unity Schools Partnership (USP), which runs 32 schools in Suffolk and one in Essex, is adding five days to the October half-year to run from 23 October to 3 November, while extending the school day by 10 minutes .
The petition is aimed at urging the USP, which manages primary, secondary, secondary and special schools, to turn around and stop the pilot project, which affects 14,000 students.
The angry parents claim that their children have already missed a lot of education due to the coronavirus pandemic and teachers’ strikes.
Pictured: Classroom (file photo). A petition has been started by those who say it will cost them more because their children will get an extra week of vacation this year during fall break
They say the change also means finding the money for babysitters or losing their wages if they have to take time off from work.
A USP spokesperson said it believes the idea will “positively impact the physical, emotional and mental health of our staff and students.”
The group hopes it will “reduce absenteeism during the fall term, as families can go on holiday more cheaply.”
However, critics argue that if the idea is adopted across the UK, travel agents and airlines will simply raise their prices for the extra days.
After consultations with parents and carers, which ended in mid-March, USP CEO Tim Coulson said there were more than 2,300 responses, with “a majority of both staff and parents in favor of the proposals.”
Some petitioners pointed to a survey of 500 Haverhill parents that found 82 percent disagreed with the changes.
Stephen Husband, who started the petition, has children in a primary school in Haverhill and younger children in the nursery.
He said the later finishing will have ‘a roll-on effect on the nursery’ so he will have to pay an extra 30 minutes a day – a further £1,700 a year.
Mr Husband said: ‘The reasons they have given are patronizing, condescending and inconsistent with the realities of the current climate.
“This will have serious consequences for the everyday parent who won’t have enough free time to carve out this extra week, let alone book a family vacation two months before Christmas.”
“Unity is adamant that a process is needed. We don’t need a lawsuit to see that this will be a huge financial and mental burden on families.”
Pictured: Kids at school (file photo). The petition is aimed at urging the USP, which manages primary, secondary, secondary and special schools, to turn around and drop the pilot project, which will affect 14,000 students.
Diana André said the proposals are “a nightmare” as she has a teenager in Castle Manor and runs a nursery school in Haverhill.
She added that many of her employees are parents who are in the same boat.
Ms André said: ‘I don’t see how the Trust is listening or supporting working families with this proposal.
‘At the playgroup we are not in the same position to be able to close for an extra week in October.
“This leaves a problem for our staff team who now have to find and pay for childcare for a week.”
Ms André added that in her consultation response she pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic “has taught us that children often learn best in school”.
She said: “A lot of kids are still catching up. Ten extra minutes a day is less than a week at home.’
Another working parent, Emma Rogers, is concerned that children will now have 10 weeks off school from July to January.
She said: ‘This puts a financial burden on an already tense situation for families regarding childcare.
“Many children are also still suffering from the consequences of lost education due to the pandemic.”
Fae Church also fears how much school her daughter would miss if the idea takes off.
Ms Church said: ‘She has already missed almost two weeks of school this year due to strike days, holidays and school closures due to weather conditions or site maintenance.
“To then suggest that they need an extra week off is just infuriating.
“Unity School Partnership have clearly made their own decision on the proposal and the purported benefits of the scheme are condescending.”
On social media Chris Canham wrote: ‘The behavior and attitude of the teachers these days leaves a lot to be desired.
“I wonder what kind of example this sets for the kids they’re supposed to teach and mentor.”
Jo Smith replied, “Well, parents have been consulted and personally I am in favor of it, as are many parents at my child’s school.
“You’re never going to please everyone and it’s just a pilot at this point.”