Exceptional closure days - Northern Ireland

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

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

Circular 2022/14: School Optional and Exceptional Closure Days provides advice and guidance on the use of optional and exceptional school closures.

Circular 2020/09 Addendum: School Optional Days and Exceptional Closure Days 

Exceptional Closures due to adverse weather

Advice and guidance can be found on Letter to Schools – Exceptional Closure due to adverse weather and how to notify the BBC 

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.

Exceptional Closure Day for Schools Used as a Polling Station

If your school is required to close for use as a polling station, you will need to apply via the automated online application for an exceptional closure.

Schools must first register to use the application, if you have not already done so, and authenticate your account before you are able to use the system.

Once you have registered and authenticated your account, log on and select the option ‘use as a polling station’.

A step-by-step guide on registering and authenticating your account is included at Annex A of DE Circular 2020/09. Should you have any difficulties in accessing this application, please contact the Department by email at attendance@education-ni.gov.uk or by telephone at 02891 279328 / 02891 279 543.

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.

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 

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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