House of Commons Library

The School Day and Year

Published Friday, July 19, 2019

The rules and debate relating to the setting of school hours and term times. Do children benefit from a longer school day or year?

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In England, local authority maintained schools must open for at least 380 sessions (190 days) during a school year. 

Term dates are determined by school employers. The local authority is the employer for community, voluntary-controlled, community special or maintained nursery schools.  For foundation, voluntary-aided and foundation special schools, the employer is the governing body.

The Deregulation Act 2015 provides for the responsibility for determining term dates to pass to school governing bodies at community, voluntary controlled, community special and maintained nursery schools in England.  However, this provision is not yet in force.

The head teacher of a maintained school will recommend the length of a school day, including session times and breaks.  The governing body must agree the recommendation.

Academies, including free schools, set their own term dates and school day.

This briefing provides information on the rules relating to the setting of school hours and term times.  As schools is a devolved subject, the note focuses on the position in England, but the position in the rest of the UK is also provided. 

The paper also provides an introduction to the debate and research on whether longer school days and terms are of benefit to children.

Commons Briefing papers SN07148

Author: Robert Long

Topic: Schools

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