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Downham Market Academy students set to be given extra days off in new Eastern Learning Alliance trial

A scheme to reduce the number of days children attend school each year is set to be trialled at a West Norfolk academy.

The Eastern Learning Alliance, which runs Downham Academy, has announced intentions to test a three-week Christmas holiday at Girton Glebe School in Cambrigeshire, which would cut the time students spend in the classroom.

And these ideas are now likely to be implemented at the Downham school for the 2024/25 year too.

Downham Academy students are set to be given extra days off school in a new Eastern Learning Alliance trial
Downham Academy students are set to be given extra days off school in a new Eastern Learning Alliance trial

The trust says it communicated these changes to parents in January, as it normally does, to make sure they have plenty of notice ahead of time.

It says it has received positive feedback from the majority of them, although some have expressed concerns about having to cater for their children being off school more days per year.

The trust says the contracted teacher hours lost in these days will be made up for with various sessions throughout the year.

A spokesperson said: “This year, we sent an additional parent communication explaining that we have amended holiday dates in the autumn term, to include two additional days in October, and three in December.

“We explained that as well as providing a better balance to the school year, this contracted teacher time will be redirected across the course of the whole academic year to student-facing sessions during and outside of the school day.

“We are pleased to have received a wide range of very positive feedback from parents regarding our approach, and are grateful to those who continue to write to us to express their support.

“These changes mean that the equivalent of five school days of contracted teacher time will be redirected across all 38 weeks of the academic year to secure and enhance our programmes of extra-curricular clubs, trips and visits, as well as one-to-one and small group academic tuition.

“We know that sessions such as these are absolutely key to ensuring exceptional school experiences and outcomes for young people, and are confident that this approach will allow us to secure and enhance that provision next year.

“All schools in the Eastern Learning Alliance perform very strongly: the student experience and outcomes at Girton Glebe Primary have improved dramatically with the support of our trust.

“We are committed to offering sector-leading educational provision, and look forward to improving on this year on year, as is always our aim.

“We are aware of some concerns raised by a small number of parents, with whom we continue to communicate in detail.”

The BBC has reported that parents at the Girton school are split over the plans.

One father-of-three told its reporters that trying to ask the trust about its reasons behind the scheme “was like getting blood out of stone”.

Another parent with daughters at that school asked: "Where's the oversight and where's the governance?”

It remains to be seen how Downham parents react to the proposals.

Do you have any thoughts on the additional days off for children? If so, contact kris.johnston@iliffepublishing.co.uk

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