Parents frustrated over primary schools taking holidays next week

Department of Education says schools entitled to use ‘discretionary days’ for holidays

The Department of Education has confirmed that many primary schools are entitled to take next week off by using “discretionary days” even though a mid-term break is not scheduled. Photograph: iStock

The Department of Education has confirmed that many primary schools are entitled to take next week off by using “discretionary days” even though a mid-term break is not scheduled. Photograph: iStock

 

Parents have expressed frustration that many primary schools are taking a week off next week despite disruption to children’s education over the past year.

The Department of Education has confirmed that many primary schools are entitled to take next week off by using “discretionary days” even though a mid-term break is not scheduled.

Schools have a standard number of teaching days and those opting to take next week off are typically finishing up later in June compared to those who are not taking holidays next week.

However, many parents have complained on social media and on RTÉ’s Liveline on Thursday that schools taking holidays next week is “excessive” given that many children are catching up on lost learning due to school closures.

Primary schools were closed from mid-March until the end of June last year, while they closed again between January and March of this year for public health reasons.

Many special schools are also closing next week which campaigners say is coming at a challenging time for children with learning difficulties.

Lorraine Dempsey, interim chief executive of Inclusion Ireland, said she had hoped schools could have shown more flexibility in light of disruption to the school year.

“I understand that schools scheduled their school holidays a year in advance, but given the recent challenges and the proximity to school closures and Easter holidays, we’d have hoped that some would have taken a more flexible approach,” she said.

Some schools in recent weeks have readjusted their calendars and decided to take one or two days off next week and finish earlier in June.

Under Department of Education rules, primary schools are required to teach children for 183 days a year.

Standardised

While the school year is standardised for holidays and mid-term breaks, schools have discretion to arrange teaching days outside these periods.

Several callers to RTÉ’s Liveline complained that next week was too soon for holidays given recent breaks and school closures.

“I don’t feel it is appropriate for teachers to be taking four days holidays next week in light of all that has happened in this year and last year,” said one Liveline caller.

“They had a week off in February and then they had two weeks off at the end of March for Easter.

“There could be some variations because I know not all primary schools are off next week but certainly my one is closed,” she added.

One Liveline caller said flexibility should be shown by more schools this year due to disruption to school.

“My belief is that there should be flexibility given there were extra dates taken in January, given the number of days that students have lost out already,” the caller said.

“I think the teachers really and the Department of Education primarily should consider their role and the importance of supporting the children.”