You may have seen a government announcement late yesterday ‘allowing schools’ the freedom to move a training day to Friday 18 December. Schools already had that freedom, so the issue is worthy of explanation for those who do not work in the education sector.

State education has had, throughout the careers of those currently working in schools, a school year which runs over 190 days, or 38 weeks. In 1988, alongside the introduction of the National Curriculum, Kenneth Baker the then Education Secretary, removed 5 days from what had been teachers holidays and introduced teacher training days. For many years they were known as Baker days. Prior to the dismantling of Local Authority infrastructure over the last 10 years, the timing of these 5 training days were generally decided by the Local Education Authority at county level. In what was Hereford and Worcester in the 1990s these became known as Teacher Education Days, or TEDs.

With the increased autonomy of academies and reduction in power of Local Authorities, the timing of these 5 training days are decided at a school level. However, the school holidays are still decided at county level, and individual schools have to work within these parameters. Our long experience of leading schools (we have combined senior leadership experience of 60 years across 5 schools) tells us that part weeks at the end of the summer term are always poorly attended. It is normal that these are dealt with by making these days training days, and they are often disaggregated to break the training up over evenings across the year, making it more useful.

This year we have 3 days at the end of the summer term, 19, 20 and 21 July, which are identified as training days and will be delivered as 15 hours of online training. We are using EduCare training and ImpactEd to deliver our substantial online training and research platform. As you may recall, our first training day was on Tuesday 1 September which was used by staff to prepare for school reopening. We have our only remaining training day on Monday 4 January. We already have our ImpactEd trainer scheduled to run a whole staff training session on that day. Even if it was possible to move this to Friday 18 December, its value as a training opportunity would be negligible, as staff are exhausted at the end of the most challenging school term any of us can remember.

These plans have been in place for many months and anyone who works in educational leadership will tell you that the school year is planned in some depth well before it starts. We clearly have flexibilities and all decisions weigh up different options and compromises and their relative value. In this particular instance the DFE announcement is less than helpful. Had the announcement been a sixth training day, or to give schools the latitude to take their curriculum online it might have been of use, but as things stand we will not be making any changes to our published plans.