Exceptional closure days

Advice and guidance on the use of optional and exceptional school closures.

Exceptional Closure Day for Schools Used as a Polling Station on 8 June 2017

Please see the Department's letter dated 24 April 2017 providing advice for schools being used as a polling station. This letter advises schools that DE approval for an Exceptional Closure on 8 June 2017 can be assumed as long as the school’s name and DENI reference number are included in the list below. This removes the requirement for individual schools to apply for the Department’s approval for an exceptional closure.

If any amendments (omissions or corrections) are required to the above list, these should be e-mailed at the earliest opportunity to curriculum.supportteam@education-ni.gov.uk

Optional days

School authorities have discretion to close a school for up to a maximum of five days. These days are classed as optional days and may be counted toward days when the school is required to be in operation. Schools are required to be in operation for 200 days less five optional days, leaving a total of 195 operational days.

The provision for optional days is designed to cover closings for reasons that might arise throughout the year. School authorities should therefore hold in reserve a number of the possible five days to meet cases when a school will have had advanced notice, for example; moving premises, building work is being carried out or schools are amalgamating.

Exceptional closures

Only in exceptional circumstances, where the closing of the school is out of the control of the school authorities, will the Department be prepared to consider proposals for a reduction in the required number of days (195) on which a school should be in operation.

It will, for example, be prepared to consider applications where a school has closed due to:

  • the death of a member of staff, pupil or another person working at the school
  • power cut
  • adverse weather conditions
  • burst pipes and/or flooding
  • security activity in the area
  • use as a polling station

School circular

Advice and guidance on the use of optional and exceptional school closures.

School development days

Schools may take a number of days for purposes connected with school improvement matters during the school year.

Enquiries about these days should be addressed to the Department of Education, Standards & Improvement Team 

Exceptional closure due to adverse weather

The severe weather conditions in November/December 2010 resulted in a considerable number of schools in Northern Ireland having to close. This highlighted a number of issues, including confusion about the number of days that schools must be in operation; the different types of school closure; and the arrangements for notifying parents.

As a result, the former Minister for Education, Caitríona Ruane MLA, established a working group consisting of members from across the education sector. The working group was asked to explore the arrangements governing school opening/closures, and to provide recommendations to the Department of Education on how to improve them, particularly in relation to exceptional closures. The working group’s report has now been published and is available below:

The Department of Education is taking forward work on the group’s recommendations contained in the report.  

Checklist for Principals when considering opening or closure of school

The Checklist for Principals when considering opening or closure of school has been produced by the Working Group on school opening/closure arrangements.

The Checklist provides Principals with information on the factors they need to consider when deciding whether or not to close their school.

The Department's Curriculum Support Team should be notified of any exceptional closure at the earliest opportunity.

School Principals are reminded of the need to have in place an action plan for dealing with any exceptional closures which may arise due to adverse weather.

Information for parents and guardians on the different types of school closures and the factors that Principals need to consider is available on the NI Direct website

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