School terms and school closures
The school year has three terms from early September until the end of June. Schools must open for 200 days in the year but don’t always take the same dates as holidays. Schools can close to pupils for staff training days. Extreme weather can cause unplanned school closures.
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 2020/2021 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.
Taking a child on a family holiday during term time is usually an unauthorised absence.
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
All schools must record details of pupils’ attendance and absence at school. They do this at the beginning of morning and afternoon sessions meaning that each day your child receives two half day marks.
If your child is going to be absent from school, (for example for an unavoidable appointment) then you should let the school know as soon as possible. If your child has been absent due to an unexpected event such as bereavement or illness then you must also let the school know on the first day of absence in line with the school’s attendance policy.
The school will then record the absence. If you fail to let the school know why your child has not been present then the school may record that period of absence as being unauthorised.
The Education Welfare Service (EWS) has access to all attendance information for each pupil and if your child is missing school without good reason, schools and the EA have the authority to find out why.
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
- social media channels
- online apps such as Seesaw, Class Dojo or Parent App
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.