Durban - The national Department of Basic Education has called for comments on the policy for developing school calendars.
The policy outlines more clearly current practices, and sets out specific time frames.
Amendments to the National Policy for Determining School Calendars being considered include wider canvassing of public comment, as well as a firm stance on the staggering of coastal and inland holidays.
Another specification is that, should a week have only two consecutive school days because of public holidays, those two days should become school holidays to avoid interruptions to teaching and learning.
Department spokesman, Elijah Mhlanga, said school calendars were developed two years ahead of time, after consultation with stakeholders.
They included the Basic Education, Tourism and Transport departments, unions, school governing body associations, the Federation Hospitality Association of South Africa and Business Unity South Africa. They are guided by the national policy, which is being revised.
One of the current practices is the staggering of coastal and inland school holidays, to ease traffic. Schools in inland provinces open a week earlier in January.
However, Mhlanga said this was not possible this year because of the number of public holidays in April, which forced all provinces to start and end school terms at the same time.
The Easter weekend was usually included in the school holidays to mark the end of the first term, he said.
“This will, however, not be possible because the Easter weekend is from April 18 to 21. If the end of the first term was to be inclusive of the Easter weekend, the first term would be 65 days, which is more than the average 52 days.”
The South African school calendar has four terms and the proposed number of teaching days is 200 a year, averaging 52 a term.
The third term is usually longer, for educational purposes such as writing and marking Annual National Assessments in September.
Previously, the school calendar could have between 195 and 200 teaching days, with term lengths encouraged to be of equal length, although no number of days was given.
The proposal also outlines the duration of school holidays more specifically.
Whereas the previous policy stated only that school holidays should provide teachers and pupils “sufficient opportunity to rest”, the amended policy gives a time frame.
It suggests that, as is common practice, all winter holidays should be three weeks long, while spring holidays should be one week.
Summer holidays should be four weeks for inland and five weeks for coastal schools, while inland schools should close for two weeks at the end of the first term and coastal schools close for one week.
Comments must be submitted by the end of next month. The task team will consider submissions on March 4.