Australia and New Zealand
In Australia and New Zealand, academic years for primary and secondary institutions are divided into two semesters, with each semester being further divided into two terms (thus totaling four terms per year). Although historically the year was divided into three terms with an extended Easter break interrupting the first term, the year has been divided into four terms since the late 1980s (with the exception of the Australian state of Tasmania which did not change until 2013).
Following southern hemisphere seasons, the main summer holiday between academic years encompasses most of December, all of January and sometimes a few days at the beginning of February, and always encompasses Christmas and New Year as well as Australia Day on 26 January. In year 12, however, the term ends in November; for those who go on to university, the term starts in March. New Zealand celebrates Waitangi Day on 6 February; the summer holidays in New Zealand may or may not extend as far as that day, depending on the year. There is typically a break of two weeks mid-semester (i.e. after Term 1 and after Term 3) and a break of three weeks in the middle of the year, although this can vary between jurisdictions. In the year 2000, due to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, the state of New South Wales extended the break after Term 3 to three weeks, compensating by reducing the break in the middle of the year to two weeks.
Historically, the Term 1 holiday have been scheduled around Easter, reflecting the three-term system's notion of an extended Easter break within Term 1; although since the mid-1990s this has gradually changed, and now only Queensland and Victoria tie the school holidays closely to Easter; the remainder of Australia and all of New Zealand now have a fixed length to Term 1 which leads to the Easter period falling within Term 1 in some years with an early Easter, such as 2016.
Typically, the Term 1 holidays will run for two weeks within April; the mid-year holidays encompass the last week of June and the first two weeks of July; and the Term 3 holidays encompass the last week of September and the first week of October. This varies between jurisdictions, and exact dates depend on what day of the week these respective months begin, as (with the exception of the beginning and end of the academic year), terms tend to begin and end with full weeks.
In Britain, an academic year usually runs from September of one year through to late July of the following year, with the time split up into three terms. Each of these is usually divided into halves with a week-long 'half-term' break between. Primary (1-11) and secondary (11-16) schools usually follow a 39-week academic year, while further (16+) and higher (18+) educational establishments often have 36 or 33-week terms, generally with no half-term break. Oxford and Cambridge have shorter terms still, usually 8 weeks each term.
For English state schools, the year commences in the first week of September with a half-term break (1 week) at the end of October, and the term ends shortly before Christmas. After a two-week holiday encompassing New Year, the second term stretches to Easter and is of variable length to allow for that movable feast. It has a half-term break around mid-February. There are two weeks of Easter holiday, then the final term starts and lasts until the third week of July. The half-term break is at the end of May and students with exams will often finish their studies at that break and take exams during June and July.
The summer break lasts for approx 6 weeks and was designed originally to allow children to help with the harvest. In Scotland, the summer break is earlier because of the different day lengths and agricultural practices.
Private (public) schools may follow different terms, and some self-governing academies follow different termly structures.
It is often believed that when the United States was a primarily agrarian society, children were needed during the Northern Hemisphere summer months for farm labor.
However, there is little evidence supporting this, with 19th-century rural schools more typically favoring a summer academic term and more vacation time during spring and autumn.
Summer is still a popular time for family vacations, and most have a 2 or 3-month summer vacation. The academic year typically runs from late August or early September until May or June, depending on the length of the year and number of the holiday, vacation, and snow days occurring during the year. The year is divided into two semesters, three trimesters or four quarters, typically with a report card issued to students' parents at the end of each.
An academic year typically includes a fall and spring semester, with a shorter optional summer session. Many also have a short optional winter session. Some operate on a trimester calendar.
Continuing education classes (often available at community colleges and private "boot camp" style schools) are often shorter and start throughout the year with no particular seasonality.
Public elementary and secondary schools averaged (at the state level) between 170 and 180 school days in the 2007-08 academic year. Different states have different legal minimum requirements for instructional days and hours per year.
- Official Australian School Holidays
- "Education" (PDF). Wellington City Libraries. 23 May 2014.
- "School terms and holidays". Ministry of Education. 23 May 2014.
- de Melker, Saskia; Weber, Sam (7 September 2014). "Agrarian roots? Think again. Debunking the myth of summer vacation's origins". PBS NewsHour.
- "Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS) 2007–08". National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
- Mikulecky, M. (March 15, 2013). "Number of Instructional Days/Hours in the School Year" (PDF). Education Commission of the States.