21 November 2023
UCAC is extremely disappointed that Welsh Government has published its consultation on the school year without fully engaging in advance with the teaching unions. The Union feels that Welsh Government did not pay sufficient attention to practical points nor to the pedagogical aspects of such changes, when drawing up its plans for a revised school year. Significant changes to the school calendar require detailed planning, addressing the implications of those changes on all pupils, parents and staff. By proposing to extend the summer term, Welsh pupils would still be in school during the week of the Royal Welsh Show. The show is the pinnacle of the agricultural year for many families associated with the agricultural industry, an industry which plays such a vital role in Wales. Removing a week from the current summer holidays would also have a detrimental effect on secondary school leaders and some secondary school teachers whose summer holidays are already curtailed as they deal with A level and GCSE results during the month of August. The proposal to shorten the autumn term by a week will increase the pressure on teachers and pupils following examination courses, as they will have less time to fulfil the demands of the examination syllabus. These changes to the school calendar are proposed for the academic year 2025-2026 and therefore will coincide with the introduction of the new GCCSEs. Education in Wales has faced substantial changes and challenges during the last few years. Pupils and school staff have had to contend with revolutionary reforms, such as the new curriculum, new ALN legislation, as well as all the challenges which came as the result of the pandemic. The Union believes that the best way of supporting ‘learners’ and staff’s wellbeing’ is by ensuring a period of stability in our schools. There is a very real danger that the current recruitment and retention challenge will be further intensified in face of so many radical changes.