This policy outlines the requirements relating to school hours and any changes to schools hours.


  • Schools must provide at least 25 hours student instruction per week (with the exception of prep students in Term 1).
  • In specific circumstances, school hours may be varied for student needs (including prep students), teacher needs and emergency circumstances.
  • School hours may not be varied for staff meetings or conferences (unless there are exceptional circumstances).
  • Regional director approval is required for changes to the start and finish times that affect the school bus schedule.


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.

Where possible school times should be organised to occur within the VicRoads school speed zone times (8 am to 9:30 am and 2:30 pm to 4 pm), refer to VicRoads school speed zonesExternal Link .

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.

Principals are responsible for deciding whether or not to vary school hours, subject to regional director approval if required. However, because of the impact any variation to the starting and finishing times of a school day may have on the school community, the principal must consult with their school council (as a means of considering the views of the school community) before varying the starting and finishing school hours, except in cases of emergency variations. Depending on the extent of the change, schools may also wish to consider other forms of consultation with the school community, such as parent forums, written communications or surveys.

Variation to hours for student or teacher needs

The following information outlines the various circumstances that school hours may or may not be varied, according to student or teacher needs.

Attendance for prep students

To accommodate local circumstances, principals may dismiss prep students:

  • in January and February, no earlier than 2 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% of the normal school week.

To make these adjustments to attendance times, the principal must:

  • consult with and consider the views of school council
  • develop a comprehensive communication strategy with parents
  • ensure students are collected by the parent or carer or another person authorised by the parent or carer, or provision is made for the care of the student during normal school hours, when the parent or carer cannot collect the student or wants them to attend school.

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.

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 provided the school council has been consulted and their views taken into account (as a means of considering the views of the school community) and the instructional period excluding recess and lunchtime is at least 240 minutes.

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.

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 may dismiss students early provided that the parent or carers 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 or carer 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
  • that in secondary schools students in senior classes with be required to attend
  • that in secondary schools middle and upper year students will be considered for non-attendance.

When strike action is taken the department expects principals to:

  • plan for the maximum number of students to attend school and make arrangements with those teachers who will be in attendance
  • make special timetable arrangements as necessary for the day
  • make arrangements for any students to attend school when their families cannot provide adequate supervision at home
  • send a notice home to parents or carers advising them of the arrangements that will apply.

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

Temporary school closure in emergency circumstances

For details about school evacuation and temporary closure in emergency circumstances, including extreme weather conditions and loss of essential service, refer to Managing and Reporting School Incidents (Including Emergencies).

Department policy outlining the requirements relating to school hours and the process required for school closures

Reviewed 05 September 2023

Policy last updated

20 June 2022


  • Schools
  • School councils


School Operations and Governance Unit Operations and Governance Division

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