Department Reveals Changes To School Calendars

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A lot of work goes into the creation of a school calendar. Several factors must be considered before a proposed school calendar is even presented to stakeholders. 

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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has released a revised policy outlining how public school calendars are determined. This policy aims to create a balance between educational needs, stakeholder interests and practical considerations.

Several key factors are considered when determining a school calendar including mandates on how many days learners must spend in the classroom, how long holidays should be and when they should be placed. 

Around 200 school days are mandated by the DBE per year. This is to ensure that there is sufficient learning time. The school year is divided into four terms, with varying lengths, however, no school term will have less than 43 days. 

The number of school days must be the same in all provinces.

The scheduling of school holidays is also an important consideration for the DBE when creating a school calendar. School holidays are scheduled to provide rest for learners and educators, but not disrupt learning.

The DBE adds they must avoid public holidays falling within the first or last week of a term. This is done to minimise disruption.

It was revealed that schools can close for up to two days per year for major religious holidays of the majority faith. The same goes for sporting and cultural events where up to two days a year can be dedicated to school-related sporting or cultural activities.

The policy clarifies that minority faith considerations must be made. This includes ensuring that minority religious groups within a school community may not be disadvantaged or discriminated against in any way. 

Members of world views or religions that form a minority of learners at a school may be given permission to take recognised religious days off from school. In the case of learners of minority religious groups who do not attend school on such day(s), the entry in the register should indicate that the learner is absent for religious reasons and that such absence is condoned. 

The Process Of Determining A School Calendar

The process of creating a school calendar in South Africa involves several steps to ensure it meets the needs of various stakeholders. First, the Department of Basic Education drafts a preliminary calendar. This draft is then circulated to provincial education departments and other interested parties for their feedback.

Once the initial feedback is collected, a subcommittee gathers to review the comments from both provincial departments and stakeholders. With these considerations in mind, the proposed calendar is submitted to the Minister of Basic Education. The Minister then makes the calendar public and invites comments from the general public.

After reviewing the public's input, the subcommittee reconvenes to consider these additional comments. The proposed calendar is then sent to a committee for evaluation and recommendation to a council. The specific date for this submission aligns with the committee's meeting schedule.

Finally, the proposed calendar reaches the council for their consideration and potential adoption. The council's decision ultimately requires the Minister's approval. Once approved, the Minister officially publishes the final calendar in various locations, including the Government Gazette, the Department's website, and social media platforms. 

The DBE says this approach benefits all stakeholders including learners, educators, families and businesses. 

They explain that learners benefit from a consistent schedule with sufficient breaks that promote learning and well-being.

Educators benefit from predictable terms that allow for planning and professional development while families know when school holidays will take place in advance helps with travel and family activities.

According to the DBE, businesses benefit from the knowledge of consistent holidays that can aid tourism and other sectors.

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