Written Answers. - School Year.

Ivor Callely

Ceist:

116 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Education the content of the circular regarding current rules on the length of the school day and year; the proposals, if any, she has to extend the length of the school day or year; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7863/95]

The present position regarding the length of the school day and year is as follows: At primary level, schools are required to be in operation for a minimum of 183 days in the school year. They are required to provide a minimum of 4 hours 10 minutes of secular instruction daily. It is the practice also to include 30 minutes of religious instruction each day. This results in 23 hours 20 minutes of instruction time per week. Schools are also required to provide a recreational period of 30 minutes each day and to timetable 10 minutes for roll call.

At post-primary level, the present requirement is that five-day week secondary schools are required to be in operation for at least 179 days in a school year, including 12 days on which the certificate examinations are held. The number of hours of instruction per week in such schools is required to be not less than 28. A small number of six-day week schools catering mainly for Protestant pupils have shorter days and are required to be in operation for 199 days each year. As regards community and comprehensive schools — which are under the direction of boards of management and vocational schools-community colleges — which are under the direct control of vocational education committees, the position is that these schools are not required by Department regulation or circular to operate for a minimum number of days each year. In general, however, they remain open for the same number of days as secondary schools.
In order to ensure the integrity of the school year and the school day at second level, my Department, as outlined in the recent White Paper on Education, will issue a circular to all schools clarifying the relevant, current rules on the basis of the following model (Days): Primary Level

School in operation for teaching

183

Standard number of closings:

(a) Saturdays and Sundays

104

(b) Permitted Vacation Days

56

(c) Public and Religious Holidays

16

176

176

Remaining Days

6

365

Post-Primary Level

School in operation for teaching (Less 12 days in the case of cer- tificate examination students)

179

Standard number of closings:

(a) Saturdays and Sundays

104

(b) Permitted Vacation Days

60

(c) Public and Religious Holidays

16

180

180

Remaining Days

6

365

The following policy approach is outlined in the White Paper in relation to the school year: boards of management will be obliged by statute to ensure that schools adhere to the prescribed minimum number of teaching days per annum and to the minimum number of teaching hours per day. The minimum numbers will be prescribed from time to time by the Minister for Education. In the context of the present minimum, the six "remaining days" will be used for school-related activities, such as curriculum development, school planning and staff development, as well as for special closures. Each board of management should critically assess proposals for the closure of its school, in order to determine whether the closure is in the best interests of the students. The boards should bear in mind that the reasons which might warrant the closure of a school for student-teaching purposes need not necessarily justify the nonattendance of teaching staff to engage in other essential or desirable school activities. Each board, therefore, should ensure that the opportunities offered by such closures are fully availed of by the teaching staff working together to further the aims of the school. Each board should also give parents at the beginning of each year a calendar of events in the school, including closures. It is desirable, at post-primary level, that the period of the certificate examinations be used for purposes such as in-career development and in-house examinations and assessment for students not directly involved in the certificate examinations. Discussions will take place with the relevant interests before this proposal is implemented.