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Written Statement - School term dates 2017/18

Kirsty Williams AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education

The Education Act 2014 changed arrangements for term date setting in Wales. As a result whilst local authorities and the governing bodies of voluntary aided (VA) and foundation schools retain the right to set term dates for their schools, they are also now under a duty to co-operate and co-ordinate with each other to ensure that term dates are the same or as similar as possible.

The new arrangements respond to concerns about problems parents of siblings face in finding and financing child care where their children attend schools, with different term dates.

Local authorities are required to notify the Welsh Government of the term dates they propose to set by the last working day of August, 2 full years in advance of the dates in question.

All 22 local authorities submitted notifications of term dates they propose to set for 2017/18. Information was also received on behalf of 127 VA and foundation schools; this was a significant increase on the 81 submitted the previous year.

I am extremely impressed by the hard work undertaken by local authorities and VA and foundation schools in ensuring that term dates are the same or as similar as possible in 2017/18.

Due to their hard work they were able to agree consistent dates across Wales for autumn half term, the Christmas holidays and the 6 week summer holidays in 2017/18. As a consequence there will be no impact in respect of childcare during these holidays.

I was also encouraged to see that term dates notified fell into just 2 groupings compared to 4 groupings notified by authorities and VA and foundation schools for 2016/17. In addition far more harmonisation was achieved in terms of geographical spread than the previous year.

There were however some differences across the 2 groupings, which can be seen in the tables below.

Group A - Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea, Torfaen, Vale of Glamorgan and Isle of Anglesey along with 90 voluntary aided and foundation schools which aligned with their respective local authorities within Group A.

First day of school year: Monday 4 September 2017
Autumn half term: Monday 30 October 2017 - Friday 3 November 2017
Christmas holiday: Monday 25 December 2017 - Friday 5 January 2018
Spring half term: Monday 19 February 2018 - Friday 23 February 2018
Easter holiday: Friday 30 March 2018 - Friday 13 April 2018
Summer half term: Monday 28 May 2018 - Friday 1 June 2018
Last day of school: Tuesday 24 July 2018

Group B – Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Powys, Wrexham and 35 VA and foundation schools which aligned with their respective local authority.

First day of school year: Friday 1 September 2017
Autumn half term: Monday 30 October 2017 – Friday 3 November 2017
Christmas holiday: Monday 25 December 2017 - Friday 5 January 2018
Spring half term: Monday 12 February 2018 - Friday 16 February 2018
Easter holiday: Monday 26 March 2018 - Friday 6 April 2018
Summer half term: Monday 28 May 2018 - Friday 1 June 2018
Last day of school: Friday 20 July 2018

Where consensus is not achieved the law provides that Welsh Ministers may direct local authorities and voluntary aided and foundation schools on what the dates will be. Before deciding to use these powers Welsh Ministers are under a duty to consult.

The previous Minister for Education and Skills consulted on term dates he considered setting, which were those in Group A. A copy of the summary of consultation responses will be published on the Welsh Government’s website.

A total of 55 responses were received, only nine of which were from local authorities, although it can be assumed that had all 22 local authorities responded their responses would be in line with the notification they originally submitted.

However, it should be noted that Anglesey local authority responded that the authority neither agreed nor disagreed with the proposed dates, even though the authority previously notified the Welsh Government that it proposed to set term dates in Group A, suggesting that the local authority had changed its position.

In deciding whether to direct what term dates must be for 2017/18, I have taken into account the notifications submitted by all 22 local authorities and information from 127 VA and foundation schools. They retain responsibility for setting term dates and I am satisfied they have undertaken significant work to ensure dates are as similar as possible.

I am also mindful that due to their hard work in co-operating they were able to ensure that 3 sets of school holidays are the same across Wales.

I have noted that -apart from Anglesey - the two sets of term dates selected by local authorities and VA and foundation schools fall into a clear geographical spread between the South Wales authorities, and the North Wales authorities and Powys, and as such I consider that this will reduce any impact on parents in terms of childcare.

I have decided not to use my powers to direct local authorities and the governing bodies of VA and foundation schools what term dates must be.

My expectation is that local authorities and VA and foundation schools set their term dates for 2017/18 in line with those they originally notified to the Welsh Ministers in the tables above. However, I expect that Anglesey will wish to review their dates in view of their consultation response and with a view to aligning with its neighbouring authorities in Group B. I will be monitoring their progress both in doing this and in notifying teachers and parents.

My decision not to issue a direction on term dates for 2017/18 will not impact on future term date setting arrangements. Local authorities and relevant school remain under a statutory duty to co-ordinate and co-operate which each other to ensure that term dates are the same or as similar as possible for 2018/19. My officials will shortly be writing out to LAs and schools reminding them to submit notifications of the term dates they propose to set for 2018/19 to the Welsh Government by the last working day of August 2016.