Rugby World Cup to dictate school calendar next year

As the Rugby World Cup beast gathers strength and pace, schools have been told to step out of the way next year.
The Ministry of Education has instructed schools they must adjust their school terms to allow for a longer than normal holiday in October, when New Zealand hosts the final stages of the international sporting event. Terms one and two have been extended, forcing the term breaks to fall later than they normally would.

The fourth term, when senior students take their external exams, has been cut by two weeks. Term one will run from January 31 (at the earliest) or February 7 (at the latest) until April 15; term two will be May 2 until July 15; term three, August 1-October 7; and term four October 25-December 13 (secondary) or December 20 (primary).

Easter falls late next year -- April 22-25 -- and will be incorporated in the first term holidays. The changes have been made in order to ease pressure on traffic flows and public transport, mostly in Auckland. But some secondary schools have been quick to criticise the changes, saying that they will disrupt exam preparations in October.

Rob Burrough, principal of Christchurch's Linwood College, said the new school dates would give teachers less time to "fine-tune" pupils, finish courses, and prepare them for exams before study leave started.

Instead of the usual four weeks, they would have just two.

Canterbury-West Coast Secondary Principals' Association chairman Denis Pyatt agreed the term changes would place pressure on schools.

It was crazy that rugby could have such an impact, but maybe it would be better to have the pupils on holiday, he told The Press.

"It will be very embarrassing if we get knocked out in the quarterfinals," he said. "I hope it's not just a thing about rugby being bigger than everything else, because it's not."

Julie Moor, principal of Christchurch girls' school Rangi Ruru said the decision had been made without consultation. Private schools set their own term dates, and her school had decided to return a week earlier than state schools next October.

"It's not that I'm not a fan of rugby, but education is more important," she said.

The decision to change the school year was made in 2007 by then-Labour education and Rugby World Cup minister Trevor Mallard. It applies to all state schools, even those in the many parts of New Zealand which are not hosting World Cup matches.

Education Ministry early-childhood and regional education deputy secretary Rawiri Brell said information was presented to the Government showing that Auckland traffic flows would be improved if the final stages of the tournament were held during a school holiday. Ms Brell said the education sector was consulted widely and the total length of the school year remained unchanged.

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