School Holiday Pattern

Closed 10 Mar 2019

Opened 18 Feb 2019


(Please note the survey link is at the bottom of this page).

The school holiday pattern in Aberdeen has been broadly the same for many years and this review reflects changes which may impact upon the suitability of the current arrangements.

There is a statutory number of school openings of 190 days for pupils. In addition, teachers have five in-service days.

Current council policy states that, wherever possible, schools will open for complete weeks, rather than part-weeks, to minimise disruption to learning and teaching.

There is concern that a significant amount of unauthorised absence occurs due to parents/carers taking their children out of school during term time to benefit from lower holiday prices. It is unlikely that changing the holiday pattern will have a significant impact upon this as travel companies are alert to the timing of school holidays and adjust their prices accordingly. However, there is some evidence that unauthorised absence around the time of the February long weekend may be due, at least in part, to families taking extended holidays at this time.

The table below shows the agreed pattern which is in place until school session 2019/20 which results in a four-term school year, beginning in August.



Term length (*number of days)




3rd week in August

8 weeks (40 days)

1st week in October

One in-service, two holidays – total 37 days


4th week in October

9 weeks (45 days)

4th week in December

One in-service – total 44 days


2nd week in January

13 weeks (60 days)

Last week March/1st week in April

Two in-service, one holiday – total 62 days


3rd/4th week in April

11 weeks (55 days)

1st week in July

One in-service, two holidays – total 52 days

*these days do not take account of local holidays and days off when teachers only attend. The total number of days in the school year for pupils will always be 190 days.


Summer Holidays

Aberdeen is one of only six of the 32 Scottish Local Authorities (LAs) where schools usually finish for summer on the first Friday in July and return in the third week of August. There are advantages in aligning the end of one and the start of the next school session with the majority of LAs. This will make it easier for families where there are children and working parents/carers operating across the inter-authority boundary, if the adjacent LA adopts the same pattern. Currently, Aberdeenshire Council, our only adjacent LA, has broadly the same holiday pattern as Aberdeen City.

Co-ordinated summer holiday pattern will also allow projects to be efficiently and effectively organised for summer school holiday time (both pupils and staff) by outside providers.

Senior pupils usually receive their SQA exam results on the Tuesday of the second week of August. By returning a week earlier than at present, schools will be in a better position to provide timely assistance and support to pupils regarding arrangements for courses at schools, colleges or universities and other forms of continuing learning and training or entering the world of work. This would be a significant advantage for these pupils.

September Long Weekend

Usually Aberdeen staff and pupils are on holiday on both the Friday and Monday over the third weekend in September. In one recent year, this was removed, and the additional days added to the winter holiday period to enable full teaching weeks and to increase the time between schools closing in December and Christmas Day.

This was generally well received, and many consultees stated that a long weekend in September was too soon after the return from holiday in summer.


Autumn Holidays

Aberdeen schools are currently on holiday for two weeks in October.

Almost half the LAs in Scotland have a single week in October and the balance of days either added to the summer holiday or to an early spring holiday in February.


Winter Holidays

Aberdeen schools are currently on holiday for two weeks in December/January. Previous engagement with stakeholders indicated there was a strong preference for a significant period of holidays prior to Christmas and less support for a long period of holidays after New Year. Where necessary, the September weekend has been cancelled and the two days added on to the start of the winter holidays to allow for this.


February Holidays

Currently in Aberdeen, there is one day holiday and two days of in-service, across a weekend in February. This means that pupils are off for 5 days.

Many LAs have a full week’s holiday for pupils and staff at this time.

This arrangement means that there is a very long term between returning from holiday in the new year and going on holiday again in the spring (around Easter). Previous consultation provided evidence that many parents/carers, staff and pupils felt this was too long and both staff and pupils were very tired by the end of term.

The health and wellbeing of both staff and pupils would be enhanced by a longer early spring break. There was some resistance to this proposal as it was felt that this was the term when most work was completed by senior students working towards SQA awards and other courses. The efficiency and effectiveness of learning and teaching in a term lasting up to 13 weeks is questionable. The total teaching time available will be unchanged if such a proposal was implemented.


Spring (Easter) Holiday

The spring holiday normally falls during the first two full weeks of April.

Due to changes in the SQA examination timetable, there would be significant advantage in having the two-week holiday a week earlier. Some LAs link this holiday to Easter but this is often so late in April that senior students would return too close to the time of examinations.

Also, this would provide clarity for parents/carers, staff and pupils if the holiday was for approximately the same two weeks each year.


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