SCHOOL CLOSURES AND INSET DAYS
GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS
Published: September 2006
Last revised: August 2009
This guidance outlines the legal position relating to school closure and INSET
It also includes guidance on factors to consider and procedures to follow
when a school closure is being contemplated.
If you wish to discuss the contents of this guidance, please contact David
Bowen (01924 305502).
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SCHOOL CLOSURES AND INSET DAYS
Please note that where this guidance states that something “must” be done, it
is a legal requirement; “should” indicates a recommendation of good practice.
How many days must the school be open to pupils?
The school must be open to pupils for 380 half-day sessions (190 school
days) in each school year, beginning with the first term to start after July.
This fits in with the 190 days a year when a teacher may be required to teach
pupils by a teacher’s statutory conditions of service.
A teacher is required to be available for work up to 195 days. This leaves 5
non-teaching work days; these are usually referred to as INSET days as they
are normally used for in-service training. However, they can be put to other
uses relating to school activities, as directed by the Headteacher. This is set
out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document which is a
statutory document and has the force of law.
What must happen for the school to be deemed “open to pupils”?
The school is only “open to pupils” when staff contact time is being
provided to pupils. DfES guidance is that, if most pupils are left alone for a
large part of the day to work without contact time from staff, even if
the pupils are on the school site, then the school is at those times not
“open” to those pupils, and that day must not count as one of the 190 days
(or 380 half-day sessions) for which by law the school must open.
This means that, for example, if the school is closed so as to provide
consultation time with parents, the relevant session(s) do not count towards
the 380 required by law.
How long must the school be open to constitute a working day or half-
The start and finish times of each half-day session - and, therefore the length
of the midday break - are decided by the Governing Body. There is an
elaborate statutory process for changing these times (see Authority guidance
on www.wakefield.gov.uk/education/schools/governors, in the Guidance and
Information section). This process is legally binding on community and
controlled school governing bodies and strongly recommended by the DfES
(and the Authority) for other school governing bodies.
There is no law on the length of the morning or afternoon sessions nor the
midday break, although schools would be expected, in law, to behave
reasonably, as with all discretions.
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Schools should also take account of DfES recommended weekly taught times
for Key Stages 1-4. At present, these are:
KS1: 21.0 hours;
KS2: 23.5 hours;
KS3: 24.0 hours;
KS4: 25 hours.
These times do not include time for collective worship, registration or breaks.
Can the school take additional non-teaching or INSET days beyond the 5
set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD)?
Teachers cannot be required to work additional non-pupil or INSET days
beyond the 5 set out in the STPCD.
It is also illegal to take additional non-teaching or INSET days at the
expense of the 380 half-day sessions during which the school must be
open to pupils. This includes consultation time with parents. The school
must provide pupils with their entitlement to 380 half-days of education unless
circumstances make this impossible or dangerous (for example, heating
failure in winter, bad weather or a very high level of staff absence).
Neither the Governing Body nor the Authority can approve an additional
non-teaching or INSET day except in a response to circumstances that
make it impossible or dangerous to open the school to pupils. Where there
are such circumstances, the decision to close should be made by the
Headteacher, in consultation with the Chair of Governors or Governing Body
Such circumstances will generally be unexpected or beyond the school’s
control. However, where building work has taken place on a school site, it
may be appropriate to close the school to all or some pupils to enable the
setting up of classrooms etc.. In these circumstances, please consult the
school’s Premises Officer who will be able to advise on what may be
necessary, drawing on experience of previous situations.
Please note that DfES “expects schools to make up lost days where they can,
but recognises it may sometimes be impractical”. However, where a school is
unable to open to pupils for one or more sessions, and where it is not
reasonably practicable to arrange for the school to make up the session(s) at
an alternative time(s), the school should be treated as if it had met as
intended for those sessions.
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How are a school’s non-teaching or INSET days set?
For community and voluntary controlled schools, the responsibility for setting
such days lies with the Authority.
Two INSET days are specified in the calendar of school terms and holidays
set by the Authority after consultation with schools and other interested
The Authority leaves the choice of the remaining three INSET days to
schools, with all decisions to be approved by the Governing Body.
The Authority has also agreed that the Governing Body may decide, on the
advice of the Headteacher, that “twilight” INSET activity may count against a
planned INSET day so that staff do not need to report for work on the planned
However, such “twilight” INSET activity cannot be set against one of the 380
half-day sessions for which the school must be open to pupils.
At voluntary aided schools, all decisions about the INSET days lie with the
Governing Body. However, the Governors must also ensure that the school is
open to pupils for 380 half-day sessions in the year.
Who should be informed if the school is not open to pupils?
Parents and carers should be given the maximum possible warning of any
school closures. Where there can only be limited notice of closure, the school
must make arrangements for the safe supervision during school hours of
pupils who turn up at school and whose parents cannot make alternative
The following should also be informed of the closure as soon as possible:
Kingswood Catering staff, to explain that meals will not be required;
the School Crossing Patrol Officer, to ensure that school crossing
patrol staff are available for any children returning home and to notify
them when the school is expected to re-open;
the Access Section of Family Services, for advice in cases where
children are transported to school;
Personnel Services, to inform them of the decision to close the school;
Thornes Park Cleaning, to discuss whether their staff should remain at
Staff should remain on site wherever possible.
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Full guidance on emergency closure of schools is given in the Unplanned
School Closure Procedure which is published on:
What about election days?
Schools may be required to close to pupils for use as polling stations in
accordance with the Representation of the People Act 1983.
Where election days are known well in advance, they are included in the
Authority’s calendar of school holidays and terms as INSET days.
Where a by-election or general election is called on a pupil-contact day, the
school must close to pupils unless the Electoral Registration Officer deems
Where the Headteacher feels that the school should not be closed to pupils
during the polling, the Electoral Registration Officer can be asked to consider
the situation and where necessary visit the school to make an inspection. The
Electoral Registration Officer’s decision will be based on a number of
considerations, including whether or not the school has a self-contained area
in which polling can take place which can be isolated from the school and
which has its own entrance. The Electoral Registration Officer’s decision is
A polling station requires safe, secure access to the public and must comply
with other legislation governing ease of access and working conditions for
employees. It may also require safe storage facilities for the election
paraphernalia for a day or so before and after the election.
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