Avatar photo

By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Sweeping changes proposed for SA school calendar

Just days left for stakeholders to give input on 2024 school calendar changes gazetted by the Department of Basic Education.

South Africa’s school calendar could have a radical new look if the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE) proposed changes to the 2024 academic year get the green light.

The public has until 4 June to comment on gazetted major amendments to the National Policy for Determining School Calendars for Public Schools in South Africa.

One of the changes which, however, has already been confirmed for 2024 is that of incorporating as many public holidays as possible into school holidays.

ALSO READ: Motshekga apologises for school nutrition programme disruptions, says ‘the situation has stabilised’

Back to the drawing board

The department has gone back to the drawing board with the changes in its bid to maximise school time following the past three years’ disruptions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposed amendments would provide more flexibility when it comes to determining the start and end dates of each term. It will also address the staggered coastal/inland calendar.

ALSO READ: Covid-19: SA urged to remain vigilant following WHO’s global emergency lift

Take a look at the proposed school calendar changes

  • The fourth term – which used to end in the second week of December – must end in the first week;
  • Removing specific mention of months where terms should end for added flexibility;
  • Integration of public holidays into school holidays;
  • Flexibility to still allow for a staggered calendar if it needs to be implemented;
  • Allowing for more religious holidays for minority learners (previously, the maximum was two days);
  • Allowing for deviations on an urgent basis in response to disasters or exceptional circumstances;
  • Allowing for approved changes to be announced and disseminated through social media. (In the past, this was limited to newspapers only.)
The Department of Basic Education has gone back to the drawing board to maximise school time following disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Image: iStock

ALSO READ: Court orders government to exempt schools, hospitals, police stations from load shedding

Synchronising staggered calendar: Impact on tourism and road safety

The DBE has also already confirmed plans for coastal and inland schools to start and end on the same date for the school calendar for 2024 (continuing in 2025 and 2026).

Despite its intentions to do away with the staggered calendar, the department has noted the impact of such a move on tourism, road safety and traffic. Hence the proposed flexibility in its implementation.

“Seeing that the timing of school holidays could have an effect on traffic flow, which, in turn, has potential road safety implications, the department should plan the school calendar in a way that will assist in minimising traffic flow relating to school holidays,” it stated in its proposed amendments published on 4 May in the Government Gazette.

“The aim is to allocate different dates to the two clusters in the first term so that traffic density before the opening of schools for the new school year is kept within acceptable levels.”

Public holidays

In its gazetted proposed change, the department noted that every effort must be made to ensure that there is no public holiday during the first or last week of a school term when the calendar is planned.

“Public holidays that occur during the first or last week of a school term disrupt the academic work of the school.”

Where a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, the Monday before or the Friday after the public holiday must be declared a school holiday.

If a long weekend begins on a public holiday that falls on a Friday, and such a weekend coincides with the beginning of the school holidays, schools must close on the Wednesday and not on the Thursday.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits