Parents unhappy with new school half-term dates in Melton

John Ferneley College headteacher Christine Stansfield EMN-171212-160150001
John Ferneley College headteacher Christine Stansfield EMN-171212-160150001
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Angry parents say changes to school half-term dates in Melton will cause them major childcare problems.

Schools in the Mowbray Academy Trust, which includes the town’s John Ferneley College and Brownlow Primary School, will switch next year to the week after the traditional October break.

Pupils at other schools, including Long Field Academy and Swallowdale Primary School, will continue to take their half-term the week before, in line with the Leicestershire norm.

As a result, some families will have children taking their half-term breaks on different weeks, which parents say will ruin their holiday plans and affect arrangements for childcare.

That is the dilemma facing Simon Parker, a farmer near Great Dalby, and his partner.

He said: “I wouldn’t have known about the change to term dates if someone hadn’t told me.

“Luckily we hadn’t booked anything because some of the children are off on different weeks.

“I know quite a few people who weren’t aware of it either and I think it will have quite a big impact on families in this area.”

Melton resident Dean Williams said: “This is an issue for lots of families that have children at primary and high school for holidays and child care arrangements.

“We are going away with a family and they will have to take their daughter out of school and face a potential fine to go away on holiday.

“This is because their son is off the first week and so is the mum, as she works for a Leicestershire school, and then the second week she will have to find childcare as she will be back at work.     

“There was no consultation, no warning and it comes with less than a year’s notice and lots of families have already booked holidays for October 2018.

“I know several families have written to the heads of their schools to ask reasons why and request a change.”

A primary school teacher, who works in a school within the academy trust, is unhappy fellow teachers and parents weren’t consulted before a decision was taken to change half-term dates.

The woman, who has children at different schools who will now be taking half-term breaks during different weeks in October, declined to be named but told the Melton Times: “I am a teacher and I was not consulted in any way, shape or form before this decision was made.

“It provides a lot of us with big problems, primarily to do with childcare.

“It is incredibly divisive and there should have been some form of consultation beforehand.

“I chose a job in the same county as my children because the holidays were the same at all the schools but I am now considering whether to stay in the job.”

Mowbray Academy Trust said it had changed half-term dates for its family of schools to make the length of terms either side of the break more equal in length.

CEO Christine Stansfield, who is also head of John Ferneley College, said: “If we had stayed with the Leicestershire half-term dates we would have had a nine-week term up to Christmas next year.

“This year, this is the case and our children have really struggled with the lengthy half-term - our absence rate towards the end of term has been higher than it has ever been as a result of tiredness.

“This has affected the well-being of staff, also, which is a massive concern for us.

“We are trying to put our community first by creating more equitable half-terms.

“We have also found that other schools in the area and neighbouring counties are increasingly doing their own thing, in terms of scheduling half-terms.

“This year our staff have been affected by an Autumn half-term dates that differed by up to three weeks.”

Mrs Stansfield said the trust conceded that a minority of families were unhappy but she said there had a good deal of positive feedback following the trust’s decision.

“We are very sympathetic to those who have issues and who are finding difficulties with the new term dates and we will help them where we can,” she added.

“Most importantly, we are aware of the feeling in the community and while we cannot make changes for next year, we are working extremely hard to get some consensus on half-terms with other head teachers in the area for the following year to ensure we are not in this position again.

“We cannot make promises in relation to what others schools decide to do, however we can promise that we will do everything in our power to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Half-term dates for Melton borough schools for October 2018:

15-19 - Long Field Academy, Swallowdale, St Francis, St Mary’s, Birch Wood (all Melton); Captain’s Close at Asfordby, Great Dalby and Asfordby Hill.

22-26 – John Ferneley College, Sherard, Brownlow, The Grove (all Melton); Somerby, Ab Kettleby.