School days, holidays and the academic year: annual reports reveal big differences between European countries


The European Commission has published two reports from Eurydice on the organisation of school time and the academic year in Europe. With national data from 38 European countries*, the reports show considerable variations in the length of the school and university year, as well as different holiday periods. The figures offer a useful snapshot, although it is important to remember that education personnel spend significant time working outside of official teaching hours.

Every year the European Commission publishes this overview with key points and comparative figures for European countries. On the organisation of school time the figures show that the numbers of school days in Europe varies from 157.5 days in primary education in the Flemish Community of Belgium to 200 days in Denmark and Italy. In terms of holidays there is an even bigger discrepancy. The summer break is as short as 6 weeks in some German Länder, the Netherlands, the UK and Liechtenstein, but reaches up to 13 weeks in Albania, Italy, Latvia, and Portugal, and even 15 weeks in Bulgaria. Similar variation can be observed in the organisation of the academic year in universities across Europe.

In some countries there are differences in the length of summer holidays depending on the level of education. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska) students in secondary education start the summer holidays earlier than in primary education. On the other hand, in Albania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia, students in primary education begin their summer holidays before those in secondary education.

In some countries, such as Denmark or Germany, the academic year for students and teachers is the same (at least on paper). In other countries, such as France it differs by a few days, while in Montenegro teacher return to work around three weeks before students. There is also variation in terms of how much flexibility individual institutions have in setting their calendar. For example, the report shows that teachers in Latvia have the right to receive eight weeks of paid annual leave in summer. However, schools can require them to return before the students, who have 13 weeks off.

ETUCE reminds that the number of school days for students is by no means the same as the number of working days for teachers. Educational personnel in schools and universities often do significant amounts of work at home and in the education institutions beyond the number of official school/teaching days – both during holidays and in evenings or weekends during teaching periods.

Click here to see the full report on the Organisation of School Time in Europe 2019/20.

And here if you wish to access the Organisation of the Academic Year in Europe 2019/20.

*28 EU member states, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Serbia and Turkey