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What you need to know about the 2020 school year

Written by Cathy Grosvenor

The amended school regulations will see pupils returning to school in phases, with all grades back in the classroom at the end of August.

If all goes according to plan, the 2020 school year will end on 15 December for grades R to 11, with Grade 12s writing their last exam on that day too.

According to the revised school calendar, published by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in the beginning of August, the academic year will be completed by the time schools close for the year. This means that all teaching, learning and assessments for grades R to 11 must be finished by then.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that as a result of the increase in Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, schools would be closed for four weeks, until 24 August, he mentioned that the current academic year might have to be extended into 2021.

However, the DBE says that with 163 actual school days for teachers and 156 for learners, all work could be completed this year.

“We are not going to dump the work we missed, we are going to factor it into 2021,” explains Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. 

The four-week break announced by the President excluded matriculants, who were given one week off school, and Grade 7s, who had a two-week break.

According to the revised school calendar, the majority of learners will return to school on 24 August. This includes grades R, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 in primary school and grades 9, 10 and 11. Grades 5 and 8 pupils will return to school on 31 August.

All officials not yet back, will be expected to return on 17 August.

The new regulations gazetted by the department confirmed that schools may bring other grades back to school sooner, provided that they are able to meet the required safety measures.

Schools catering for children who have severe intellectual disabilities will be able to welcome pupils in Grades 1, 2, 3 and their final year from 24 August, while their G      Grades 4 and 5 will return on 31 August.

The regulations state that parents or caregivers must inform the school if a pupil self-isolates or is quarantined as a result of COVID-19 and also include guidelines for people who wish to keep their children at home because of health or safety concerns. The first step is to apply with the child’s school for partial or full exemption from compulsory school attendance.

“Schools must continue to practise physical distancing and, if needed, change timetables to ensure there is no overcrowding,” says DBE Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

Mhlanga says while they understand that the Coronavirus is causing fear among pupils - teachers, parents, and all concerned parties need to work together to find a way to co-exist with the virus.

Important dates

The Department of Basic Education says a one-week break, from 26 to 30 October, would separate the third and fourth terms. 

Schools will close for the year on 15 December and re-open on 25 January 2021 for teachers. Learners will start a few days later.

With regard to matriculants, marking must be finished by 22 January and the results will be released on 23 February 2021.