Staying on top of the (primary) school holidays

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Today my kids finish school and won’t return until Tuesday morning.  It is a bank holiday weekend so Monday is a day off across the country (for those that don’t work them!) and our school has given one extra day off which is technically the mid-term break.

A few people have been caught out by this.  I had a Whatsapp message in one of my school mum groups this morning and a discussion in a parenting group I’m in about it.  The last thing any parent wants to do is drop their kids off to school only to realise there is no school.  So how do you stay on top of what seems to be endless school holidays and mid-terms and days off?

Know the structure of the school year

The easiest way to stay on top of days off is to get your head around the structure of the school year.  Every primary school has to teach 183 days.  It is broken into three terms.

  1. From the start of the school year in late August/early September through to Christmas.
  2. From January through to Easter holidays
  3. From after Easter to summer holidays at the end of June.

Due to the standardised school year, the dates of the end of each of these terms are notified to all schools from the Department of Education and you can check them out yourself here if you fancy some advance planning for future school years.

The easiest way to know the end of term holidays is that they are at least two weeks off, rather than mid-terms which are one week or less.  So Christmas is an end of year holiday so expect 2 weeks off, Easter is an end of term holiday so again 2 weeks off.  Whatever you do don’t call end of year holidays mid-term breaks.  It only adds to confusion and makes me irrationally annoyed!

Factor in mid-term

So if there are three terms there is going to be a maximum of three mid-term breaks.  The standardised school year sets out the first two mid-term breaks.

The week following the October bank holiday is always mid-term.  So once you know when the October bank holiday (it’s the last Monday in October) is you will know your first mid-term break.

For the second there are two days set in stone by the Department, generally in mid-February and always a Thursday and Friday but each school can decide to use discretionary days to make it a full week off.  Some schools do use them, some don’t.  Some, like mine, chop and change each year depending on when the Easter holidays fall.  For example in 2016 the Easter holidays fell really early so our school just gave the standard two days.  One year later and Easter was a little later so they gave us a full week in February which allowed us to go on a ski holiday.

The final term is probably the most difficult as there is no requirement at all on schools to build in a mid-term and to be fair given we are gearing up to almost 9 weeks off there really isn’t a requirement for one.  For our school it again depends on where Easter falls.  In 2016 with it being so early there was a full week off after the May bank holiday (which given my Mum died that weekend meant my kids missed no school for the funeral!  Though I’m sure they have had better mid-term breaks!).  This year at the May bank holiday we were only barely back to school after Easter holidays and so there was no time off.  Given the June bank holiday is pretty much mid way through this short third term we have one day off to make it a long, long weekend which I think is a happy medium and fair enough.

Get your school calendar

Each September we are given the school calendar.  It outlines all the dates of both standardised and discretionary holidays and mid-terms.   I stick the calendar on my notice board so can always do a double-check if I can’t remember any dates.  If your school doesn’t give you a calendar by end of September go in and demand one.  It is totally unacceptable in my view that a school throws days off at parents at a moments notice.

Get it in your diary

When it comes to the non standard stuff it can be so easy to forget particularly with different schools doing different things with their discretionary days.  So once you get your school calendar get the dates straight in the diary.

I am going to happily have a glass of wine tonight while not making school lunches or getting school uniforms ready and enjoy the one day long mid-term break and bank holiday weekend. When we return next week we will be on the countdown to the long summer holidays!  Come back to me in two years when I’ll be dealing with secondary school holidays too….


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