Length of School Day

The following text is taken from Circular 11/95 Time in School (PDF) The term ‘school hours’ in relation to any school day means the entire time of the school meeting from the opening of the school for the reception of the pupils to its closing on their dismissal.

The school should be open to receive pupils not later than 9.30 am and formal instruction must commence not later than 9:50 am in all schools, and not later than 2 pm at the afternoon meeting in schools in which there are two meetings daily. (Rule 55 Rules for National Schools).

The period of religious instruction to be provided for in the timetable for each school day must be at least one half hour.

The period of secular instruction to be provided for in the timetable of each school day must be at least four hours and ten minutes. In the case of infants and first standard, the time required may be reduced by one hour, but this does not exempt any teacher from attendance for the full period of the school meeting. In a school in which there is only one meeting daily, an interval for recreation of one half-hour should be allowed. A board of management may however, arrange for a recreation interval in excess of one half-hour but not exceeding one hour.

In all schools a five-minute break should be allowed at an intermediate time in the forenoon and again in the afternoon (in practice most schools take a 10 minute small break). The time at which each break is taken should be duly entered on the timetable. The pupils should be permitted to go into the playground and the classroom should be ventilated during each break. These may be deducted from the time allowed for secular instruction. A minimum period of ten minutes must be set down in the timetable for roll call.

Circular 11/95 Time in School shows that there are 20 minutes of assembly, supervision and preparation time which form a core part of the 5hr and 40 minute school day. This time is allowed for at the start of the school day in order to maintain effective supervision over the pupils from the time of their arrival at the school. The time between the teachers’ arrival and the commencement of formal instruction must be spent in the carrying out of duties connected with the school work, supervision of pupils, preparation of teaching materials for the day’s lessons, hearing or correction of home lessons or other work, school records or accounts etc.

The following is an outline of the required school day in an ordinary national school. The Rules referred to are the Rules for National Schools.

School Hours In A National School: (One Meeting Daily)

  • 4 hours 10 minutes secular instruction – Rule 56 (1)(a) is amended by Circular 17/’77. It may be reduced by one hour for children in infants and first class;
  • 30 minutes religious instruction;
  • 30 minutes lunch break – Rule 56(5);
  • 10 minutes roll call – Rule 55(4)(d);
  • 20 minutes assembly time – Rule 124(1)(a); and
  • two five-minute breaks should also be allowed but these may be deducted from the period allowed for secular instruction – Rule 56(6) and Rule 56(1)(b). The total period in school should therefore amount to 5 hours and 40 minutes.

Two Meetings Daily – Rule 55(2)

In schools in which the midday interval is longer than one hour, the school day must be regarded as comprising two meetings and the roll called in both the morning and afternoon. Assembly time is taken in two ten-minute periods at the beginning of each meeting.

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