Private school head calls for complete calendar reshuffle

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A SCOTS private school teacher has proposed a complete restructure of the school year to help children who have been in lockdown catch up – by removing long summer holidays.

Rod Grant, head of £13,000-per year at Clifton Hall School in Edinburgh, has laid out a seven phase plan that will see pupils in schools for every month of the year.

Mr Grant believes that the long school summer holidays cause pupils to “forget” what they have learned and has called for a better holiday system. 

Rod Grant Headmaster | Scottish News
Rod Grant, the Headmaster who called for the reshuffle.

His “seven-phase plan” would mean teachers would work an extra five days per-year, with school holidays staggered throughout.

Mr Grant’s proposal would see the entire school teaching year in Scotland split up equally in a bid to help children who may have fallen behind during lockdown.

Parents and teaching unions have backed the radical proposal.

Mr Grant, who has gained 31 years teaching experience in both the public and private school sector, yesterday said: “After a year of living with a pandemic and all the restrictions that has entailed, I worry that so much has been written about ‘lost learning’ in children’s educational journeys.

“However, what coronavirus has done, is to create an opportunity to reassess our educational model, to reimagine how we do things.

“I am in the process of consulting all stakeholders at my school on a new, more sustainable set of session dates.

“This will mean that the school will be open every month of the year but with the same number of teaching days as is currently the case. 

“My suggestion is seven phases of teaching and learning, with no holiday period longer than five weeks and no shorter than two.

“Each ‘phase’ would be no longer than seven weeks and no shorter than four.

“Such a revised set of dates would create a more sustained and human approach to learners learning and teachers teaching.

Clifton Hall Private School | Scottish News
Clifton Hall Private School

He added: “This calendar provides 185 teaching days (five more than is currently the case in my school) with an opportunity for five in-service days.

“It means no long summer holiday where children ‘forget’ what they have learned and it is more sustainable in creating a high-impact, high energy teaching and learning experience.

“More frequent, but shorter, holidays allow for important downtime, thereby reducing those mind-wrecking 10-week teaching terms.

“The notion that more teaching time is the answer to our lockdown ‘loss of learning’ debate is deluded. 

“It is not the amount of time that is the determining factor in academic achievement; it is what you do with that time.

“Personally, I fancy running a school where ‘school’s IN for summer’!”

Teaching unions today backed the idea.

Greg Dempster, General Secretary for the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), today said: “I agree with Mr Grant’s comments about proposals about the corrosive nature of the ‘lost learning’ mantra and of the calls to extend terms and lengthen school days.”

Since Mr Grant shared his action plan online, parents have also supported the proposal.

Alison McIntosh posted: “Yes long summer holidays were to fit in with the farming calendar so children could help in the fields…those days are long long gone…”

Hazel Turner commented: “I think this is a fantastic model! 

“My children don’t attend your school unfortunately but I think the idea of shorter but more regular holidays and shorter terms, is something that our government should pay attention to! 

“Shorter holidays would also benefit parents like me who have to find childcare over the long summer break, much more manageable if it was 5 weeks.”

Pamela Tierney said: “I think this is a great idea! Much better academically and socially. 

“A much better balance between school and home life.”

Facebook users reacted to the proposal | Scottish News
Facebook users reacted to the proposal.

Last month, The Commission on School Reform published a new report highlighting how further school closures means catch-up work is necessary.

Commission member Lindsay Paterson, who is also a Professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh, suggested an extra eight hours of work per work for two years, or five hours per week over three years.

Mr Grant made headlines in January of this year after he called the Covid-19 restrictions on children “the stuff of nonsense”.

The headteacher penned a Facebook post detailing how kids had become lockdown’s “collateral damage”.

He revealed how he had seen a rise in pupils self harming and contemplating suicide since lockdown.

Seamus Searson, General Secretary for the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), todayScottish News  slammed the proposals and said that teachers do enough already.

He said: “This is messing about with things that don’t need to be messed around with. 

“The children are tired out after a school day, more time on top of that is not good. They need a break.

“The children will cope, but we as professionals need to organise and close the gaps.

“Teachers already give a lot and work late and long hours, 

He continued: “We hear this idea every so often, you need to remember that pupils and teachers need time and break to do other things.

“I get frustrated when I hear these ideas.”