When you work in the education sector there are two types of years: the calendar year and the academic year. If you are a Teacher, planning is essential, so this guide will help you keep track of important key dates and events in the school calendar. If you are considering a profession in teaching, this will help you understand the structure of the school year to see if it fits with your long-term goals.
Key dates in the school year
Before each academic year begins, it is important to make yourself aware of term dates and holidays. This enables you to plan out the year ahead for both work and personal time and you can schedule your non-classroom work, such as lesson planning, training, and marking, around your teaching days. School term and holiday dates vary slightly across councils in the UK, and teaching professionals should always check their own schools’ website for exact dates.
The academic year is full of special days and events that schools can participate in and it is helpful to find out about these ahead of time so you can plan how to use them in your teaching and get your pupils involved. These events encourage learning, participation and discovery, often around a specific theme and can be adapted for the pupils that you teach, whether they are primary, secondary or special educational needs and disability (SEND).
September - December
Schools in England and Wales begin each academic year in early September, sometimes returning for a couple of days at the end of the week prior to the first full week of the month. The autumn half term holiday is usually a week at the end of October. School then returns until the Christmas holiday, which begins around the end of the third week in December, depending on when Christmas falls.
Autumn Term Events
The months from the end of summer to December include some traditional key dates, including Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th November and Remembrance Day on the 11th November. These events can be used to teach the history and reasons behind these days.
The lead up to Christmas means lots of extra activities to organise, especially for primary Teachers, who will find themselves creating art projects, rehearsing school nativities and helping to organise Christmas fairs; this can be a very busy time of the year.
Read more here about key events in the autumn term.
January - April
Schools return during the first full week of January, after new year. The dates of the spring term can vary, ending with the spring holiday, which is determined by where Easter falls. As a result, this two week holiday can start as early as the end of March but is usually around the first or second week of April. The term is split into two by a week off for spring half term. This is usually the third week of February but can move a week either way depending on where the spring holiday begins.
Spring Term Events
The spring term has a few events that can be adapted for lessons with any age group throughout primary, secondary and SEND schools. In February, Safer Internet Day provides an opportunity to teach and remind pupils about safety online. Fairtrade Fortnight begins at the end of February and can be used to cover a variety of topics across all age groups.
If you teach key stage 4 pupils thinking about the next stage of their career, it would be helpful for you to know about National Apprenticeship Week, which is usually at the beginning of February. You can find out more about it here.
Read more here about key events in the spring term.
April – July
Apart from years when Easter is late, the summer term usually begins in mid-April. The summer half term holiday is the last week of May, beginning with the spring Bank Holiday. The summer term then ends during the third full week of July.
Summer Term Events
On the return to school after the spring holiday, the hope of warmer days means more outside activities can take place during the school day. National Sports Week happens in June and is a time to encourage all young people to get involved in sports activities. Make Music Day, is on the 21st June every year and is a fun celebration of music which can be used to promote music in the classroom, especially popular with primary school children.
Read more here about key events in the summer term.
Bank holidays and inset days
There are 8 bank holidays each year in England and Wales. The majority of these don’t affect the school calendar as they fall within the Christmas, Easter, May half term and summer holidays. The only exception is the early May bank holiday, which is usually the first Monday in May.
Inset days are ‘in service training’ days. Most state schools have 5 inset days during each academic year. As a Teacher you will still attend school for training or administrative work, but pupils don’t attend on these days. Inset days are set by each individual school, both regarding what you do on those days and when they take place. These days are often tagged on to the beginning or end of a holiday, but they can sometimes be at another time in the school calendar and can vary each year. Therefore it is important to check inset days with your own school.
Inset days are often used for Teacher training. This could be to focus on a specific topic such as SEND or safeguarding, or a specific subject such as numeracy or science. Training may be given by other staff members or an external trainer and often provide an opportunity for Teachers to collaborate as a team, working on activities together to improve their own knowledge and expertise.
There are often other opportunities for Teacher training that are planned within the school year, which may be in-house or may require going to another school or training placement.
If you are looking for continuous professional development opportunities, visit the Career Teachers training page for information on training sessions covering various skills, SEND and safeguarding topics.
Knowing the key dates for each academic year will help you plan your schedule and finding out more about the wide variety of events and awareness days will inspire you to incorporate new ideas and learning opportunities into your lessons.
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