Tuesday 16 January 2018

Fury over plan to claw back lost school days at Easter

Second-level principals oppose plans to use traditional school holidays to make up for days lost to extreme weather. Photo: Thinkstock
Second-level principals oppose plans to use traditional school holidays to make up for days lost to extreme weather. Photo: Thinkstock

Katherine Donnelly

SECOND-level principals are furious over plans for schools to sacrifice some of their Easter holidays -- or the February mid-term -- to make up for any days lost to extreme weather.

The principals say it would be better to shorten the Christmas holidays than to interfere with the spring breaks.

They say a post-Christmas return date, such as as January 10, as happened this year, is "far too late".

However, the weather itself could be an obstacle to schools re-opening earlier in January.

Dates as late as January 9 or 10 have accommodated the Catholic Church view that its schools should close on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

The Department of Education sought greater flexibility in the calendar after the flooding, snow and ice of the past two winters caused severe disruption to children's education.

Harsh conditions forced some schools to close for 12 days, or more, last December.

The department raised the issue in talks with school managers and teacher unions on the standardised school year, which fixes the dates for holidays and mid-term breaks.

The publication in the Irish Independent of arrangements proposed for 2011/12 provoked a huge reaction in staffrooms.

The deal, which has not been formally agreed, sets out agreed closure dates for the mid-term break and Easter holidays as February 13-17 and April 2-13.


But, the contingency plan to apply in cases of unforeseen closure would oblige schools to open up for the first three days of the Easter holidays and up to three of the five February days.

It would also make parents and teachers think twice before booking holidays at those times.

Members of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) expressed "unhappiness" at a recent executive meeting at suggestions days be kept in reserve from mid-term and Easter.

The principals would be happy to revert to a shorter Easter break, starting on the Wednesday of Holy Week, which existed before the standardised school year introduced a two-week holiday.

But they say the restored days should be be used to allow for greater flexibility in the school year and not to compensate for time lost due to bad weather.

NAPD director Clive Byrne said concern was expressed that if time had to be made up due to snow, schools would never close, with resultant difficulties for transport and the health and safety of students and staff.

The standardised year, introduced a number of years ago, fixed break dates up to three years in advance, mainly for the benefit of working parents.

Irish Independent

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