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Unity Schools Partnership schools in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Sudbury and Haverhill have October half-term extended





Schools in a Suffolk trust will be permanently extending October half-term to two weeks in an effort to reduce staff and student absence.

Unity Schools Partnership announced the extension today, at the trust’s schools in Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, Sudbury and Haverhill, as well as schools in Essex and Norfolk.

Following a trial last year, a new consultation into the change saw 58 per cent of parents in favour and 42 per cent of parents opposed, while 89 per cent of staff backed the move.

Thomas Gainsborough School in Sudbury. Picture: Gooderam PR
Thomas Gainsborough School in Sudbury. Picture: Gooderam PR

The two-week half-term will now take place from October 28-November 8.

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, said: “We would like to thank every person who took part in the two consultations and have given us their feedback and comments since we trialled the initial two-week half term in October.

“While a majority of staff and parents were in favour of the two-week half term, we acknowledge and take seriously all those comments from individuals not in favour of the proposal.”

Sybil Andrews in Bury St Edmunds.
Sybil Andrews in Bury St Edmunds.

The second round of consultation received 2,929 responses from parents, with 58 per cent in favour of a two-week break and 42 per cent against.

There were 1,079 staff responses, with 89 per cent in favour of the change.

Mr Coulson said: “Although there are various views, the two most significant are the cost of childcare and how learning time is made up.

“We plan again to organise additional childcare during the second week of this half-term break and individual school headteachers will explain how the learning time will be effectively addressed.”

Abbots Green Academy in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton
Abbots Green Academy in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mecha Morton

Unity Schools Partnership said one of the main reason behind trialling the extension was to reduce staff and student absence during a time in the school year when figures were quite high.

The results from the trial found that, between the half-term break and Christmas, pupil absence due to illness was less in every trust school in 2023 compared with 2022 – an overall reduction of 25 per cent.

Staff absence reduced by 50 per cent.

The announcement has prompted discussion from our readers on our social media.

Neil Richardson said: “Hide anything in statistics. Not spoken to another parent who wanted this.”

Laura Jane Hutton said: “Not easy for parents who work and struggle to find alternative childcare/time off work.”

Freya Matthams said: “I’m a teacher and I’m vehemently opposed to this. I’d prefer families to be allowed five days without being fined. The teachers won’t have chosen this, the academy would have imposed it.”

Liz March said: “The issue I have with this is nobody actually asked the kids. It’s a very long school day for primary kids. My daughter says she would vote no so they have shorter days. I just think they’re missing a key perspective on this.”

Mr Coulson said: “As with every trust and school across the country, staff recruitment and retention is a challenge.

“We are constantly looking at ways to address this issue and highlight why a career in education remains as important and valued as ever.”