I still can’t quite decide where I stand on the issue of term time holidays. The subject has been in the media again this week when the high court ruled that father, Jon Platt had no case to answer when he refused to pay a £120 fine after taking his daughter out of school to go to Disneyland in Florida. I read a post on the matter from Hannah at Budding Smiles who stands firmly on the side of parents being allowed to take their children out of school for holidays during term time so long as their attendance the rest of the time is high.
Reading Hannah’s post made me really consider my own position. On the one hand I think it is perfectly reasonable for a child who attends school 90% of the time to be taken out of school for a week to travel somewhere with their family where they will experience a different culture, language and so on. But, are there really any educational benefits to a week all inclusive in Tenerife where you never leave the hotel? Or ten days at Disneyland? Perhaps the benefit comes from simply leaving the country and spending time with family and that’s fine but it does annoy me a bit when people seem to think that all kids being taken out of school for term time holidays are getting some massive educational benefit from the experience.
Speaking as a teacher I also know how incredibly disruptive it can be, not only to the learning of the child taken out of school, but also to the rest of the class. Because in my experience, whatever the parents say, the kids rarely make any effort to catch up on the work they’ve missed and I end up having to go over things again. And you might not think that having one child out of class makes much difference but in a class of 30 that is potentially someone out nearly every week. Or perhaps parents would think that taking their kids out close to the school holidays would be less disruptive and then you end up with half the class missing which makes doing anything useful with the half of the class that are there something of an exercise in futility. And I’ve heard the argument that ‘you never do anything in the last week of term anyway’ but apart from perhaps the week before the summer holidays, for me at least that simply isn’t the case.
I totally understand the argument that price hikes during school holidays mean that some families simply can’t afford to go on holiday unless they go during term time. I don’t necessarily think that fining parents is the answer but neither is allowing them to take their kids out of school whenever they feel like it. I live in Scotland where there are no fines parents who take their children out of school for family holidays. Here it would seem though that parents are taking advantage of the system – the number of children taking unauthorised absences almost doubled in the decade from 2003 to 2013.
In Scotland schools have the ability to authorise term time holidays in exceptional circumstances so perhaps the solution would be to leave it up to the schools to make individual decisions based on the circumstances of each family and, heaven forbid, use a bit of common sense! The school could look at the educational and/ or emotional benefit of the holiday, and also the amount of disruption to that child and to other children in the class that an absence would cause.
Of course I doubt that will happen. What is more likely to happen is that the government will try and close the loop hole in the law which refers to ‘regular attendance’ at school, and parents will continue to take their kids out of school during term time and pay the fines, because it’s still cheaper than paying to take your family away during the school holidays.
And as for me, will I ever take my kids out of school for a family holiday? Well, apart from the fact that if I am working as a teacher myself I can’t take term time holidays, I won’t be taking my kids out of school unless it’s absolutely necessary. There are ways of having holidays outside of term time without it completely breaking the bank and that’s what we’ll be doing. Unless of course some fantastic educational opportunity presents itself somewhere down the line…never say never after all!
I’d love to hear what you think about term time holidays – are they ever justifiable?