Schools get three-week break over Easter 2016
PUPILS in primary and post-primary schools won't be just celebrating St Patrick's Day when they close on March 17, 2016.
The 'school's out' signs will go up for almost three weeks as the national holiday extends seamlessly into the Easter break.
It means schools will finish on Wednesday, March 16 and not re-open again until Monday, April 4.
While Easter 2016 will have a special place in the national calendar as the centenary of the 1916 Rising, that is not the reason for the extra-long school break.
A particularly early Easter in 2016 means that only one school day – Friday March 18 – separates St Patrick's Day and the start of the Easter holidays.
The date for Easter, which is fixed as the Sunday following the first full moon on or after the spring equinox on March 21, varies every year.
In 2016, Easter Sunday falls on March 27, and the official school timetable dictates that the previous Monday, March 21, is the start of the traditional fortnight off.
Annual school holidays are now organised in three yearly cycles, through what is known as the Standardised Year.
Discussions take place between the Department of Education, school management authorities and teachers' unions to settle the dates of the mid-term breaks and Christmas and Easter holidays.
When the groups sat down recently to discuss the arrangements for 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17, Friday, March 18, 2016 jumped out as the single school day separating St Patrick's Day and the start of the Easter break.
Rather than asking schools to re-open only for Friday, they decided to award it as a bonus day off – although it will have to be made up during the year.
Under Department of Education rules, primary schools are obliged to open for 183 days, while at second level, it is 167 days.
While schools are tied to certain dates for holidays and mid-term breaks, they have some flexibility and, for instance, there is no fixed starting date for the beginning or end of the school year.
However, in relation to the start of the year, schools are told to open during the week in which September 1 falls, or the week before that, if necessary.