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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisation of Primary Education

Malta

5.Primary Education

5.1Organisation of Primary Education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Geographical accessibility

Practically every town and village in Malta and Gozo has its own primary school. Children living more than 1.6 km away from primary schools are provided with free transport. As a result, primary schools are accessible to all children wherever they live. Primary education, including the provision of textbooks and transport where necessary, is free-of-charge. Inclusive education is endorsed by the government starting at the pre-primary level and continuing at the primary level.



In most cases pupils attend the primary school of their locality however, there are numerous cases where children attend the primary school of another locality because this arrangement may be more convenient for their parents or guardians. Parents or guardians have to submit their request to the Head of College Network of the receiving school. Generally, such requests are acceded to if the resources of the receiving school allow it.

Admission requirements and choice of school 

In Malta, the primary and secondary education cycles are separate. The primary cycle, marking the beginning of compulsory education, is of six years’ duration running from Year 1 to Year 6. The school year for pupils runs from the fourth Monday of September to the end of June. Children are enrolled in Year 1 during the year when they reach their fifth birthday, with the possibility that children are only 4 years 9 months old when they begin compulsory education.

Age levels and grouping of pupils 

Primary education is co-educational in all state schools. Generally, children joining the first year of primary school would have already attended Kindergarten within the same school. Children are grouped by age in mixed-ability classes throughout primary education.



In the primary cycle pupils have one generalist class teacher who is responsible for the teaching of core subjects and who ensures that the teaching in one area is integrated with the other areas.

There are also specialised teachers called peripatetic teachers. These teachers are not based in any one school but visit schools within the college network on a roster basis. They are teachers of Music, Art, Science, Physical Education, Drama, Personal, Social and Career Education, Information and Computer Technology (ICT) and Health and Safety. Generally, classes will have on average of between three and five lessons per week delivered by peripatetic teachers with each lesson being 45 minutes long.



Other teachers forming part of the primary schools’ setup are complementary teachers who are tasked with giving specific literacy lessons to children who would have been identified as not attaining the expected competences in reading literacy. Complementary teachers either give lessons to a small group of three to six pupils in special classrooms or else join the class teacher during literacy lessons.



A number of support mathematics teachers provide demonstration lessons and offer support to the primary classroom teachers while Heads of Department (Literacy) and literacy support teachers provide additional support to primary schools and classroom teachers with regard to general literacy issues.

Finally, a host of professional support staff are available at primary level including college counsellors, guidance teachers, psychotherapists, psychosocial specialists and specialised staff offering support to pupils having special educational needs.



Throughout their primary education, but especially in the final two years, pupils are prepared for a smooth transition to the secondary cycle.



The maximum number of pupils in each primary class is twenty-eight. This number is reduced to twenty-four if at least one student with a statement of needs forms part of the class. Classes are divided into smaller groups of not more than sixteen pupils during Personal, Social and Career Development (PSCD) lessons, which lessons are provided to pupils from Year 1 upwards. 

Organisation of the school year 

The school year for primary school pupils begins on the Wednesday following the fourth Monday of September and runs till the end of June. On the other hand, the school year for teaching staff begins on the fourth Monday of September and ends on the 6th of July.



The school year is in turn made up of three terms with the first term running from the fourth Monday of September till the last school day preceding the 23rd of December. The second school term runs from the first school day following the 6th of January till the last Tuesday preceding Easter. The third term runs from Thursday following Easter till the last school day preceding the 30th of June.



The school year has a number of recesses including a three-day mid-term recess in November; a Christmas recess from 23 December to 6 January; a mid-term recess of two days preceding Ash Wednesday; and the Easter recess from Wednesday preceding Easter to the Thursday following Easter. Finally, the summer recess for the teaching grades runs from 7 July till the week day preceding the fourth Monday in September. The first two days of the school year are preparation days for the teaching staff. 

Organisation of the school day and week 

Schools operate five days a week from Monday to Friday. The school premises are used by a single group of pupils each day. 



Each school day is six hours long, generally from 8.30am to 2.30pm, although these opening and closing times can vary between schools1. Teachers have five and half hours of contact time with students each day with an additional, non-compulsory half-hour period of supervision duties during the mid-day break. 



During June, schools open for half-days, from 8.30am till 12.15pm. This means that teaching staff have a maximum of 27 ½ hours contact time per week with pupils during normal school days. This is then reduced to 18 ¾ hours per week during the month of June.



The duration of lessons varies and is determined by the school on the basis of recommendations from the central education authorities. Specific time is allowed for the teaching of various subjects. However, a higher proportion of the timetable is allocated to the teaching of Maltese, English and Mathematics. 

 

LENGTH OF SCHOOL DAY, EACH DAY OF THE WEEK

 

Out-of-hours provision (before lessons)

Lessons (starting and finishing times in the morning)

Lunch break

Lessons (starting and finishing times in the afternoon)

Out-of-hours provision (after lessons)

Monday

Available (optional)

08.30 – 12.30

30mins

13.00 – 14.30

Available (optional)

Tuesday

Available (optional)

08.30 – 12.30

30mins

13.00 – 14.30

Available (optional)

Wednesday

Available (optional)

08.30 – 12.30

30mins

13.00 – 14.30

Available (optional)

Thursday

Available (optional)

08.30 – 12.30

30mins

13.00 – 14.30

Available (optional)

Friday

Available (optional)

08.30 – 12.30

30mins

13.00 – 14.30

Available (optional)

 

Schools are used by one single group of students per day. However, state primary schools operate an after-school-hours service called Club 3-16 whereby students from the ages of three to sixteen can attend. This service, run by the Foundation for Educational Services (FES), bridges the gap between the time when school ends to when parents finish work. The Club 3-16 service is also available during school holiday periods.



A planned programme of activities is on offer where children first do their homework then take part in educational fun activities. The service provides a safe, stimulating environment with appropriate adult supervision and facilitation. This service is provided against the payment of a fee depending on the number of hours that the service is utilised.



A before school hours’ service, called Breakfast Club, is also run by primary schools whereby schools are open about 90 minutes before lessons start so that pupils whose parents or guardians are in employment can be cared for in a safe environment. This service is offered in every primary state school and gives the opportunity to pupils to have a healthy breakfast before school commences, as well as to interact with other pupils through play and other activities.

[1]The official opening and closing time of each school shall be decided by the Director General DES. School starting time shall be between 7:30 and 8:45 hours and school closure will be between 13:45 and 15.30 hours.
(Articles 10.1 and 10.2, Agreement between the Government of Malta  and the Malta Union of Teachers, 21 December, 2017).