School Hours

Purpose of this policy

To ensure schools provide the required amount of student instruction.


Schools must provide at least 25 hours student instruction per week.

Exception: Prep students

Starting and finishing times

The school day is generally between 8.30 am and 3.30 pm, however specific times are determined locally based on factors such as:

  • bus schedules
  • links with other schools
  • organisation of the school day
  • school speed zones.

Important: Where possible school times should be organised to occur within the VicRoads school speed zone times (8.00 - 9.30 am and 2.30 - 4.00 pm) see: VicRoads School speed zones​

Note: Regional director approval is required for changes to the start and finish times that affect the school bus schedule. Principals must then advise the appropriate transport operators of any significant changes to school finishing times to allow them to consider timetable changes. 

Variations to hours

School hours may be varied for:

Student needs

This table lists the circumstances when normal dismissal times can be altered for students needs.


Attendance for Prep students

To accommodate local circumstances principals may dismiss Prep students:

  • in January and February, no earlier than 2.00 pm
  • during the remainder of Term 1, no earlier than 2.30 pm.

A variation to school hours during January and February may include 4 days per week attendance or a later start to the day, provided that students are not excused for more than 25 per cent of the normal school week.

To make these adjustments to attendance times the principal must:

  • receive school council agreement
  • develop a comprehensive communication strategy with parents
  • ensure:
    - students are collected by the parent/guardian or another person authorised by the parent/guardian, or
    - provision is made for the care of the student during normal school hours, when the parent/guardian cannot collect the student or want them to attend school.

Note: The principal may also determine a timetable and procedure to spread prep admission over 3 days in Term 1 when there are large numbers of students.  The smaller the enrolment the less time may be needed.

Small schools

Where no students arrive for the morning or afternoon sessions, teachers must remain on duty until normal dismissal time.

End of term

Students can be dismissed:

  • after 2.30 pm at the end of terms 1, 2 and 3
  • earlier than 2:30 pm on the last day of term 4 when:
    - school council agrees provided that the instructional period excluding recess and lunchtime is at least 240 minutes.

Important: When determining end of term dismissal times schools must:

  • consider the VicRoads school speed zone times 
  • consider coordinating dismissal times with neighbouring schools
  • advise relevant authorities to ensure school crossings are supervised and speed signs reflect the new finishing times.

Teacher needs

This table lists the circumstances when normal dismissal times can be altered for teachers needs.


Early dismissal for staff meetings and conferences

Principals are not permitted to dismiss students before the normal time to hold meetings, conferences or discussions with staff unless there are exceptional circumstances, then

  • the principal (with school council approval) may dismiss students early provided that the parent/guardians are notified in advance.

Strike action

When strike action is taken the Department expects:

  • all schools will remain open and normal arrangements will apply, as far as practicable
  • any student for whom a parent/guardian is unable to provide adequate care will be supervised at school.
  • principals to be advised 48 hours before the proposed strike action of the teachers who will not be in attendance
  • principals to:
    - arrange for the maximum number of students to attend school and make arrangements with those teachers who will be in attendance
    - make special timetable arrangements necessary for the day
    - make arrangements for any students to attend school when their families who cannot provide adequate supervision at home
    - send a notice home to parents/guardians advising them of the arrangements that will apply
  • that in secondary schools:
    - students of compulsory school age and students in senior classes will be required to attend
    - middle and upper year students will be considered for non-attendance.

Note: All school principals must timetable classes for all teachers present in an equitable way.

Emergency circumstances

This table lists the circumstances when normal dismissal times can be altered for an emergency.


Extreme weather conditions

Schools are not closed on days of extreme heat or heavy rain. If there are extreme weather conditions:

  • midday recess may be reduced to no less than thirty minutes
  • dismissal time may be adjusted accordingly.

Important: Students should only be sent home when there is someone to look after them. Teachers must remain on duty until the normal time to supervise those students who remain at school.


When students need to be evacuated in response to an emergency, students should be:

  • supervised for the duration of an emergency and until the normal dismissal time, provided that it is safe for students to travel home, or
  • dismissed into the care of parents/guardians during the evacuation and the details must be recorded.

Note: Regional director approval must be obtained to dismiss students.

See: Emergency Management Planning

Water and electricity disconnection

When a disconnection:

  • will necessitate a school closure and prior notice is received the principal must:
    - seek approval from the regional director before closing the school
    - advise parents/guardians of the likely time and date of reopening the school.
  • occurs without prior notice to parents/guardians, students should only be sent home when:
    - there is a parent/guardian at home to look after them
    - there are no public toilets within reasonable walking distance to which the students may be taken, such as at sports grounds, church yards, railway stations, or parents/guardians can be contacted to collect students from rural schools.

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