Schools in Northern Ireland are now closed to the majority of pupils.
The Executive has confirmed that the new school term will begin on 24 August 2020 for Primary 7, Year 12 and Year 14 pupils and for vulnerable children across all year groups. All other pupils will return at normal start dates, which may vary depending on school.
The Department of Education has published new guidance setting out how schools should plan for the new school day and is available on the Department of Education website.
School holiday dates
All school sectors agree holiday dates each year when schools can close. On these common dates, school transport and meal services aren't available. A school can open on these dates to suit the school's own circumstances.
Your child's term dates and school holidays
To check term and holiday dates in your child’s school, contact the school. To find the agreed term and holiday dates for 2019/2020 go to:
Taking children on holiday during term
By law, parents and carers are responsible for making sure their child goes to school regularly. You shouldn't keep your children off school during term.
Missing school upsets children’s education and may affect their relationships within the school. If you take your child on holiday during term-time, they might miss important work in school, homework, tests or exams.
Child's absence from school
Taking a child on a family holiday during term time is usually an unauthorised absence.
In certain circumstances, a school might agree to an absence from school if they believe it’s very important to the family's well-being. For example, if:
- the child had a serious illness
- the child has a terminal illness
- the child experienced a bereavement or other traumatic event
- the child's parent had to travel overseas for work
Don't expect your child’s school to agree the absence. You should ask the school principal as only the school can agree an absence. The school might have a policy that counts all term-time holidays as absences.
School development days
In a school term, the school can take planned closure days. They can use up to ten days for staff training and school development:
- to prepare for the year ahead
- to share professional learning and development
The school is closed to pupils on these days.
During the school year, your child’s school might close unexpectedly. A school might need to close due to:
- severe weather
- no heating
- no electricity
- burst pipes
- death of a teacher, pupil or someone working in the school
When a school must close unexpectedly, the closure doesn’t count as a school holiday.
Deciding to close a school
Before deciding to open or close a school during severe weather, the principal, or an agreed deputy will consider if:
- pupils and staff can get to the school building safely
- pupils and staff can evacuate the school in an emergency
- the Emergency Services could get to the school in an emergency
- the area is safe where pupils are dropped off
- buses and vehicles bringing meals or other services can reach the school
- there are enough teachers to supervise pupils
They'll also check local weather forecasts and road conditions in areas where staff will be travelling.
Telling parents the school is closed
Schools should use agreed methods to tell parents and staff about exceptional closures.
A school might use:
- text message
- local and regional media
Your child’s school should make sure you know how they'll contact you if there is an exceptional closure. If the school uses text messages or email, you need to make sure that they have your mobile telephone number and email address.
If you need more information, contact your child's school.
Getting information about school closures
Schools are responsible for providing information about planned and unexpected closures. If there are storms or very bad weather in your area, you can check if your child's school is closed.