Throughout the year: comparing US and UK school schedules

Office Calendar School Purposes Desktop DairyOne of the big adjustments I’ve had teaching in England has been with the school schedule – both when school is in session and the day to day scheduling of classes. There are some significant differences between the two students. Today, let’s look at the big picture yearly calendar. Next time, we’ll look at the differences in the day-by-day schedules.

Yearly Calendar

I know there are several school calendars around the US varying from state to state and district to district, and it can vary quite widely. I’ll be speaking from my own experiences. In terms of the UK, most schools operate on the same general system with a few differences in where the breaks are.

US School Calendar Basics

This is based on my experience working in Gwinnett County Public Schools. You can see this year’s calendar here.

  • 5 Teacher Preplanning Days before the first day of school
  • First day of school in early to mid-August
  • Two semesters: August to December and January to May
  • Bank holidays: Labor Day (first Monday in September), Martin Luther King Jr., Day (third Monday in January)
  • Other days off: Election Tuesday in November on major election years; day in February and a day in March unless there is an inclement weather day to make up (these days can vary a bit from year to year)
  • Teacher Work Days (students off while teachers work): one in October, one in January, one in February, and one in March
  • Longer breaks: Thanksgiving week (full week off the week of Thanksgiving), Christmas break between semesters (usually two full weeks but can be a day or two shorter), Spring Break (first full week in April)
  • Last day of school the Wednesday before Memorial Day (the last Monday in May)
  • 2 Teacher Post-planning days to wrap up the year, finalize report cards, move rooms, etc.

UK Calendar Basics

This is based on my personal experiences at The Hazeley Academy. You can see this year’s calendar here.

  • Two staff inset days before the first day of school (similar to preplanning days in the US)
  • First day of school beginning of September and not all students start on the same day: year 7s (like 6th grade) start Monday, years 8-11 (like 7-10th grades) start Tuesday, year 13 (like 12 grade) start Wednesday, and year 12 (like 11th grade) start Thursday
  • Three terms: Autumn September-December, Spring January-April, Summer May-July
  • Bank holidays: Easter Monday (day after Easter) and May bank holiday (first Monday in May)
  • Teacher Inset Days (like work days): one in October, one in January, and one in June
  • Longer breaks: One week break halfway through each term at the end of October, middle of February, and end of May; two week break at the end of each term in December and April
  • Last day of school around July 20th
  • No post-planning days

As you can see, there are several differences between the two calendar systems. I really like all of the planning days we have in the US system – especially before the start of school. Two days to get ready for the year that were mostly meetings made it a challenge to be ready for the beginning of the year. I haven’t experience the end of the year yet, but I am having trouble fathoming finishing on the same day as students.

One thing I love about the UK system so far is all of the breaks throughout the year. I’ve long thought year round school would be a good idea. The UK system is similar to year round school, and the breaks definitely help. There were time when I was teaching in the US, when we would go from mid-January to spring break with hardly any extra time off. It was tough. Then once we returned from spring break, there were less than 30 school days left. The US summer is longer (about 10 weeks for students compared to 6 weeks for student in the UK), but research has shown that students regress during the summer. I believe a shorter summer isn’t a bad thing and having additional breaks throughout the year is a much better way to go. I know it would be difficult to change this in the US since parents would have to rearrange schedules much more, but I still feel like it’s a possibility that should be explore more.

What school yearly calendars have you experienced? Do you have a favorite? I’d love for your to share in the comments! Then don’t forget to come back on Friday and hear all about how daily schedules differ in my experiences because there are some huge disparities that might surprise you.

By Janelle

Space geek, science nerd extraordinaire. That's me! Want to know more, visit the About page.

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