Rethinking Student-free Days

In Australian schools, the 1st day of the school year is usually student-free.This allows us time to hold our meetings and plan what we are going to do. In addition we have 3 other student-free days to use throughout the year. Sometimes my school uses 1 of those days at the start, to give teachers 2 days to prepare for the term.

I would like to see my school use those 2 days differently. Our 1st day starts off with a keynote address by the Principal team followed by a series of meetings. Sometimes we are lucky if we get an hour or 2 to prepare for the term. If we only have 1 day, then it just adds pressure to the teachers. I often wish our staff meetings would be more interesting, rather than sitting through an entire list of important dates and events.

I would like to see the following happen:

1. Keynote address by the Principal– focus the address with a key phrase for us to adopt for the year. All the important dates/events should just be emailed out. One of our principal team this year encouraged us to challenge ourselves this year and push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Keep it short and simple, in order to make the message more meaningful. At the end of the address, welcome new staff members.

2. Divide staff into PLTs (Professional Learning Teams) across subject areas– this will allow us to start of the year with goal-setting. I feel this will allow us to decide our focus for the year- what would we like to achieve this year. It provides us with the opportunity to support each other in our learning. At school we create our PDPs (Performance and Development Plans) with our house leader and it doesn’t get shared with other staff. By doing this in a PLT, we can support each other to achieve our goals. In these teams, we can have team building activities as well as staff sharing what they’ve done over the holidays as a way to get to know each other.

3. Short meetings- with our Domain staff as well as House staff: This could be used as an opportunity to disseminate important information.

4. Plan with our teaching teams: It is important that we get some time to plan together as a team. Since we teach in teams of 3 especially in 7-9, we need to be given time to plan activities. Often we have new staff members, or teachers we haven’t taught with before. Giving us the maximum amount of time will allow us to be better prepared for our students.

Depending on whether we have an extra curriculum day, the 1st day should not be taken up entirely by meetings. If there is a 2nd student free day then we could have the following:

  1. Year level subject planning meetings – these should start at different times as teachers can teach multiple year levels.
  2. Subject/Domain leaders meetings- this will allow us to set our goals for the year.
  3. More team planning time.



If you would like to re-think your school student-free days or staff meetings, check out Chris O’Neal’sRe-thinking Staff Meetings” suggestions.


Image: William Heinrich from Flickr. Image has been modified.


YourEduStory: How do you spend the first two days of the school year?

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