Catholic Academy Chain changes Christmas terms dates without consultation

LumenChristiParent's picture

On the 11th February parents of St Josephs Catholic Primary School have discovered through the local newspaper, The Birmingham Mail , that the  MAC (Lumen Christi Catholic Multi-Academy) has changed the Christmas Holiday Terms Dates from December 16 – January 3 to December 21 – January 9.

Across Birmingham many Schools are guided by Birmingham City Council as to when school holidays take place and common sense prevails so most Schools and Academies follow this guidance.

However the MAC has come to the conclusion that they need to change this for the benefit of all – well at least those schools in the MAC.  To-date the parents have not had any formal notice of this change so we are unsure on what basis the decision was made or what the benefits will be for the families involved. The article in the Mail refers to ‘a range of factors’, ‘to focus on Advent’ and ‘the benefits of cheaper holidays outside of the normal school holiday periods’ were behind the decision taken by the Principals at all six schools.

Further more it is alarming that the Principals did not feel the personal responsibility to contact the parents first about this matter.  Decisions made like this just fit the Academy Glove!

Consider this:

  1. You have one child in one school with one set of terms dates and another in a school with a different set of term dates.
  2. You work in school with one set of term dates and your child / children are in another school with a different set of terms dates.
  3. You are a single parent with 1 or 2.
  4. You or your partner are on a  short term contract or are self employed with 1.
  5. The holiday period stretches from 2 weeks to 3 weeks if you are in 1 or 2.
  6. Can you cram in all the extra work to earn an additional 8 days off in lieu so you can cover your child care.
  7. Just to keep your employer happy your January – December work-life-balance agreement has a stuttered start!

So as you can see, a quick blast, and I racked up 6 or 7 issues that family’s at St Josephs will have to face.

Notwithstanding the numerous personal family issues surrounding a decision like this.

Here is an interesting timeline involving the change >

Freedom of Information requests have revealed that the suggestion came from the Head Teacher at the Secondary school in the MAC - it just so happens her children's secondary school have also changed the dates!

Some parents have received letters that the decsion is final so the next step in the process is to complain to the DfE or OFSTED.

Can there be a legal challenge to this?  Does anyone have any advice.?


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Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 13/03/2016 - 08:39

One of the 'freedoms' given to academies by Michael Gove when he was Education Secretary was the ability to change term times and the school day without consultation. 

Local term times have tended to conform to an area-wide pattern to avoid the problems given above.  But academies don't have to comply.  

There is no avenue for complaints in a situation like this.  The Department for Education will take no action unless parents have been through the academy's own complaints procedure and are still not satisfied.  Ofsted only acts on complaints about safeguarding.   Local councillors can do nothing because academies are outside local authoritiy stewardship.  In any case, It's likely any complaint would fail because the academy is acting lawfully.

These are ways which the academies system allows parents to be marginalised.   Others are allowing academies to increase their Pupil Admission Number without consultation.   Academies are expected to consult on changes to the Admissions Criteria  but criticism of any proposed criteria would only succeed if it broke the Schools Admission Code.    If a parent, say, objected to the prioritisation of children of staff in proposed Admission Criteria, this would be disregarded because it is allowed under the Admission Code.

The marginalisation of parents will increase when the Education and Adoption Bill becomes law - this removes the duty of schools to consult with parents and other stakeholders when the school is planning (or being forced) to become an academy.

LumenChristiParent's picture
Sun, 13/03/2016 - 19:48

Hi Janet :-) On this note ..

"There is no avenue for complaints in a situation like this.  The Department for Education will take no action unless parents have been through the academy's own complaints procedure and are still not satisfied."

Some parents who complained have recieved a letter saying "The decision is final but if you want a personal hearing please get in touch in 10 days.  The ten days is stipulated in their complaints procedure.  So in otherwords they have already pre-judged our appeal so with this we feel we have exhusted the process with the school and can procedd to OFSTED and the DfE?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 18/03/2016 - 09:34

Sorry for delay in replying.  The DfE has issued guidance about how to complain re academies.  It's not easy.  For example it stipulates three stages which parents must go through first: informal basis; formal complaint in writing; hearing with a panel set up by the academy trust.  Only then can complaints be sent to the Education Funding Agency (part of the DfE) BUT the guidance says the 'We cannot change any decision an academy has made about your complaint. Our role is to look at whether the academy considered your complaint properly, by following a procedure that is in line with legal requirements.'

In other words, the EFA will only judge on whether the academy considered a parental complaint properly not about the  rightness or otherwise of the decision.

The EFA could consider complaints about whether an academy trust is in breach of its Funding Agreement but as academies are legally allowed to change school day and term times this would not apply.

The guidance is here.

Ofsted can only act on safeguarding issues.


James Coombs's picture
Sun, 13/03/2016 - 08:57

Janet beat me to it but, from the horses's mouth,, "Academies don’t have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times."

LumenChristiParent's picture
Sun, 13/03/2016 - 19:44

Well OK but there is a conflict of interest >

Maybe she should resign!

LumenChristiParent's picture
Sun, 13/03/2016 - 19:42

OK.  Thanks! :-)  But dont they have to consult?  What if the Executive Principal has kids in a school that have also changed there terms dates - her family will have XMAS togther.  But literally 1000's will not - what with kids going to non MAC schools.  Teachers with kids in non Mac Schools, etc,etc. 

What about Safe guarding for vulnerable adults and children.  Some are lucky to have Jobs, some are on contracts how are they going to resolve the childcare issues created by this? 

Also what about legal challenges in the small claims court for child care costs?  The MAC is a Limited Company and they have changed their contract with us without consultation or consideration and therefore many parents will suffer financial detrement in trying to arrange additional childcare or taking time off.  Can we submit a claim for the addiotnal costs through the small claims process which is normally done on line these days.

All comments and feedback welcomed so far.  Thanks :-)

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 15/03/2016 - 08:12

Academies don't have to consult re changing term times of the times of the school day  - that was one of the dubious 'freedoms' allowed to academies along with being able to hire untrained personnel as 'teachers' or being exempt from school food standards.  A Great Yarmouth primary lengthened its day for the older pupils with no consultion.  Some parents objected on the grounds it impacted on family life.    Made no difference.  The school went ahead and even got national praise from the then schools minister Liz Truss.

LumenChristiParent's picture
Tue, 15/03/2016 - 09:45

Its just a head in hands moment, shaking of head and a big sigh that leaves me this morning!

LumenChristiParent's picture
Mon, 28/03/2016 - 16:16

I hope someone from here is listening - you've have been a massive help so far. We are submitting Freedom of Info requests to the school for minutes and documents etc, that the Lumen Christi Academy have created and so far hey have been complying. We requested the 'For and against Document' for the term date change and it came back with a LEGAL advisory not to share this with anyone as it is under copyright and the Lumen Christi Academy Legal team will be in touch! They have also just done the same with some minutes. Can they do this for Freedom of Infomation Requests? What are they copyrighting?? It's a public body - of sorts!?

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 28/03/2016 - 16:58

LumenChristiParent - see Open Government Licence info here re open government licence for public sector information.   This says (among other things):

'You are free to:

  • copypublish, distribute and transmit the Information'

However, I'm not a legal expert and you shouldn't act on this information without seeking legal advice.

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