If you are a parent of school aged children you may well have seen the news today that the Supreme Court has ruled a Father who took his seven year old daughter out of school for a week to go to Florida broke the law.
If you go on holiday during term time, your child’s school may report you to the local authority – and if you don’t pay the fine you could be prosecuted. Essentially, let your child miss a day of school for a reason other than illness and you are committing a criminal offence.
So would you take your children out of school for a family trip? I have, and I really hope that my child’s school continues to take a common sense approach to reporting parents for unauthorised absences rather than employing a blanket approach to fines like some other schools are doing.
I can understand it to a point. Missing lots of school can be detrimental to your child’s development. No one wants their child to fall behind or miss out on anything important. There are definitely certain times of the year when it’s not a good idea to take a holiday. As they get to secondary school and exams loom, then of course it’s more important that they miss as little school as possible. But a seven year old?
I’m all for putting a limit on it to stop parents letting their kids miss school on a regular basis, but here’s why I disagree with the most recent ruling.
1. Of course there is the cost. Many companies hike up their prices during the school break – for some families this means that going away just isn’t an option.
2. It’s important to spend time together as a family. Real, quality time away from everyday life. It’s not always possible for parents to take time off during school holidays, and if parents work weekends or evenings it can leave very little family time. Our children spend over 30 hours a week away from us at school, not including after-school activities. It doesn’t leave a lot of time for much else.
3. It also might be the only time they can spend with extended family, especially if they have grandparents or other family that live in a different part of the country (or even in a different country).
4. During peak holiday season everywhere is busier and you end up spending more time queuing than actually doing. We visited Disneyland Paris in February term time (albeit before Izzy started school) and we hardly had to queue. She got to see and do far more than if we were spending 1-2 hours queuing per ride which is a reality during school holidays.
5. Pretty much anyone can choose to home school their children without having to follow the national curriculum or provide much evidence as to how they are spending their time. I’m simply choosing to educate them elsewhere one or two weeks a year. And during that time, they will be educated in different ways.
6. It brings new experiences and learning opportunities. Sure, they might be having fun on the beach or at a theme park, but they also get to learn about other cultures, see new sights and try new things. They may visit museums and art galleries, try a new sport at the kids club, learn about animals at a zoo or try a new food.
7. It develops new skills. From improving swimming from all that time in the pool to introducing a new language; they are often learning without even realising it. And isn’t learning supposed to be fun?
8. It builds confidence. They are spending time out of their comfort zone and meeting new people, plus learning new skills is linked to increasing confidence in other areas.
9. You know your own child and you know if missing a few days of school is going to cause any issues. We missed the second week of the September term. For some kids – nervous about settling into a new class – that wouldn’t have worked. But we know our daughter, and she happily went back into school all excited for show and tell so she could tell her new friends about kissing a “golfino” (the highlight of her holiday!).
10. It never did me any harm. We used to miss school to go on holiday each year and I turned out okay. I did well in my exams. I have a degree and postgraduate diploma, so clearly my education didn’t suffer. But who knows, maybe if I hadn’t had that week off to go to Wales I would have fulfilled my childhood dream of being an Astronaut. Probably not.
I know that there are some very good reasons for discouraging term time holidays, but as long as there are no issues with school work and the children have good attendance the rest of the year, it should be up to parents to weigh up if missing school is the right choice for their family – sometimes it won’t be, and sometimes it will.
Perhaps local authorities could direct their energy into tackling issues where children have very low attendance. What about all those children that don’t go to school because they have a teeny sniffle? Or because their parents just can’t be bothered with the school run that day or just don’t care that much about their child’s education. It happens. So schools should be addressing that rather than alienating parents that actually do care about education. Reporting parents for going on holiday isn’t going to do anything for the relationship between the parent and the school, and that in itself could be far more detrimental to a child’s education than a week in Spain.
I must add, I have the utmost respect for most teachers. I appreciate they are teaching my daughter things that quite frankly I have neither the knowledge nor the patience to do myself. They spend so much time with our children, they comfort them, help them learn far much more than maths and English, and have such an impact on our children’s lives. We are incredibly lucky to live in a society that allows our children the right to an education. Being prepared to take my children out of school during term time is not meant to be disrespectful to teachers in any way. It’s not about not valuing the education system, it’s about having the right to choose what’s best for my family.
I know my own children. Their capabilities and limitations. I should be able to decide what’s best for them, not the Government. That said, I would happily welcome some guidance (dates to avoid, key exam times, that kind of thing) and a sensible limit to the number of days taken. What I don’t welcome is the suggestion that parents could be treated like criminals for wanting to spend quality time with their children.
What do you think? Would you be happy taking your children out of school to go on holiday? Does the risk of being fined put you off? Leave me a comment below!
- That Friday Linky with DIY Daddy and Twin Mummy and Daddy
- The List with You Baby Me Mummy
- Twinkly Tuesday with Mumma Scribbles
- Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum
- Outside My Window with The Less Refined Mind