School terms in primary and post-primary schools

Introduction

Schools in Ireland are obliged to open for 183 days per year at primary level and 167 days per year at post-primary level. At one time, schools had a good deal of flexibility about the start and end of school terms. This meant that there was considerable variation about when students returned to school after holidays such as Christmas and mid-term breaks.

Since 2004 school terms have been standardised under a series of agreements made between representatives of schools, teacher unions, parents’ organisations and other relevant bodies.

The dates for the start and the end of the school year are not standardised so schools have some discretion about when students finish school in the summer and when they start school in the autumn. All schools are closed for July and most (or all) of August. The dates for the Christmas, Easter and mid-term breaks are standardised.

At the start of the school year, parents/guardians will get a list of days that the school will be closed during the year, including holidays and training days for teachers. If there are other unexpected closures the school will let you know in advance.

The Department of Education circular 0005/2020 deals with the standardisation of the school years from 2020/21 to 2022/23. The circulars also provides guidance about how schools can make up any time that is lost due to unforeseen closures.

COVID-19 and school

Keeping schools and early childhood care and education services open during the COVID-19 public health emergency is a Government priority. You can read more about the Government’s plan for living with COVID-19.

The Department of Education has provided a detailed roadmap for the safe reopening of schools during the COVID-19 emergency. Some of the changes will see students keep their physical distance from one another outside of the classroom and work within the classroom in designated groupings or ‘bubbles’. There will be lot of flexibility to allow schools to maximise school spaces including the use of PE halls as classrooms.

There will also be:

Schools will have the discretion to manage and redistribute their teaching support resources in order to best meet the learning needs of students with complex medical needs who may not be able to return to school at the end of August because public health guidelines indicate they are at “very high risk”.

Detailed guidance and supports for schools is contained in the Reopening our schools: The roadmap for the full return to school.

You can find out more about the reopening of primary schools and special schools and post-primary schools.

Read our document about school during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Rules

Start and end of the school year

The dates for the start and the end of the school year at both primary and post-primary level are not fixed. However, due to the start of State exams, post-primary schools are usually not open after the Friday before the June public holiday (the first Monday in June) in any year. The school year generally starts in the week in which 1 September falls.

Discretionary days

Every school must be open for a minimum of 183 days at primary level and 167 days at post-primary level. Schools can use any remaining days at their discretion to extend the summer holiday period or to close on religious or other holidays.

However, schools cannot use these days to extend the Christmas, Easter or mid-term breaks (unless a religious observance day(s) falls at that time for schools of a particular denomination or faith). If a school does not have enough discretionary days left for a religious holiday, it can denote that day a non-tuition day.

School year 2020/21

October 2020 mid-term break

All schools close from Monday 26 October 2020 to Friday 30 October 2020 inclusive.

Christmas 2020

All schools close on Tuesday 22 December 2020, which is the final day of the school term. All schools re-open on Wednesday 6 January 2021.

February 2021 mid-term break

Primary schools close for 2 days, on Thursday 18 February 2021 and Friday 19 February 2021. Primary schools may use 3 discretionary days to extend this to a 5-day break starting on Monday 15 February 2021, unless they need these days to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures.

Post-primary schools close for a week, from Monday 15 February 2021 to Friday 19 February 2021 inclusive, unless changes are needed to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures.

If a post-primary school needs to make up such time, it may shorten the mid-term break by staying open up to and including Wednesday 17 February 2021.

Easter 2021

All schools close on Friday 26 March 2021, which is the final day of the school term, unless changes are needed to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures. If a school needs to make up such time, it may shorten the mid-term break by staying open up to and including Wednesday 31 March 2021.

All schools re-open on Monday 12 April 2021.

School year 2021/22

October 2021 mid-term break

All schools close from Monday 25 October 2021 to Friday 29 October 2021 inclusive.

Christmas 2021

All schools close on Wednesday 22 December 2021, which is the final day of the school term. All schools re-open on Thursday 6 January 2022.

February 2022 mid-term break

Primary schools close for 2 days, on Thursday 24 February 2022 and Friday 25 February 2022. Primary schools may use 3 discretionary days to extend this to a 5-day break starting on Monday 21 February 2022 unless they need these days to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures.

Post-primary schools close for a week, from Monday 21 February 2022 to Friday 25 February 2022 inclusive, unless changes are needed to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures.

If a post-primary school needs to make up such time, it may shorten the mid-term break by staying open up to and including Wednesday 23 February 2022.

Easter 2022

All schools close on Friday 8 April 2022, which is the final day of the school term, unless changes are needed to make up for time lost due to unforeseen school closures. If a school needs to make up such time, it may shorten the mid-term break by staying open up to and including Wednesday 13 April 2022.

All schools re-open on Monday 25 April 2022.

Page edited: 22 September 2020