EU school calendar differences highlighted
on 04/09/2012 00:00:00
In Ireland, schools have freedom to begin and end the school year when they wish, as long as they meet the minimum required number of days, 183 for primary schools and 167 for secondary. But since 2004, the Christmas, Easter and mid-term breaks are set for all schools to allow for greater planning by families, with flexibility allowed for local arrangements.
The report, published yesterday, sets out the main arrangements across Europe, including the nine weeks Ireland's primary schools close for in the summer and the 12-week summer break at secondary schools.
The school calendars do not take account of extra days worked by teachers, including those used by some schools here for planning or staff meetings as part of the additional hours that teachers must work under the Croke Park agreement.
The European school calendars suggest Ireland is one of very few countries with a big difference between the primary and second-level summer holidays, and most other countries have the exact same holiday calendar for students at both levels.
The length of summer breaks ranges from as little as five or six weeks in Lithuania's primary schools and some Swiss schools, to 13 weeks in all Turkish and Latvian schools.
Second-level schools in Cyprus have just nine weeks of summer holidays but its primary pupils have 11 weeks off at summer. This is balanced by the absence of mid-term breaks in October or February and nine public or religious holidays during the school year.
Finland's schools, regularly ranked as among the world's best, have been re-opened for two to three weeks.
The country's primary and second-level pupils took 10 or 11 weeks' summer holidays from early June, and will open for 188 days in the coming school year.
Our nearest neighbours in Northern Ireland's schools have returned from the nine weeks off for all of July and August. With a requirement to operate up to 200 days, their primary and second- level pupils will have just a two-day mid-term in October - compared to a week here - and a week-and-a-half at both Christmas and Easter, when students in the Republic have two fortnight breaks.
Germany's schools take holidays at different times, depending on the region, generally have just six weeks off during the summer.
So while Bayern's pupils do not return to class until late next week, their counterparts in Hamburg are already in their fifth full week back.
The young Germans are compensated for their short summer break with longer holidays during the school year, including up to 18 days off at Christmas and spring holidays of up to 15 days.
School Holidays 2012/2013.
* OCTOBER MID-TERM BREAK:
All primary and second level schools will close for a week, from Monday, Oct 29, to Friday, Nov 2, inclusive.
Two-week holiday. Last day of school term is on Friday, Dec 21, for all schools and they re-open on Monday, Jan 7, 2013.
* FEBRUARY MID-TERM BREAK:
Primary schools to close on Thursday, Feb 13, and Friday, Feb 15, but may use three discretionary days to extend it to a full week's break from Monday, Feb 11, to Friday, Feb 15.
Second-level schools to close from Monday, Feb 11, to Friday, Feb 15.
(If unforeseen closures before this mean time lost must be made up, a school may shorten the break and remain open until Wednesday, Feb 13).
All schools to finish term on Friday, Mar 22, and re-open on Monday, Apr 8.
(Again, where contingency arrangements are required to make up time lost, a school can remain open up to and including Wednesday, Mar 27).
* Holiday dates for the 2013/2014 school year are on the Department of Education website: