I posted over on my Facebook page last week that I was very disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling that it was unlawful for parents to take their children out of school to go on holiday. I just don't see the point in criminalising parents and putting up extra barriers between home and school. To me, this ruling is not in the best interest of my children and I will continue to take them on holiday during term time.
1 - They are my children
First of all, they are my children. I am a strong believer in parental choice and minimal state interference. I know what is best for my children and I don't believe we should be dictated to by the government when we can and cannot go on holiday. Honestly, what's next? I dread to think.
2 - Cost of holidays
I have mentioned that I really want to take the children to Mexico next year. Steve and I have travelled to Mexico twice and have always said we want to take the children one day. I can't wait to show them Chichen Itza which is one of the 7 wonders of the world and in my opinion a lot safer to travel to than the pyramids in Egypt. To visit over Easter or in the 6 weeks holidays, it would cost us around £7000. To travel in December (and out of hurricane season), the same trip would cost us £3500. There is no way I can justify spending £7k on a holiday. I can barely justify £3500. There is an argument that if you can't afford it then you shouldn't go, but why should I deny my children of this experience? We are a very hard working family and deserve a break.
Even camping shoots up in price in the summer holidays. Most of the sites we have looked at are £50-£70 per night during peak season compared with £20 ish per night off peak.
3 - Travel is an education
In my opinion, the government are far too focused on testing children and forcing kids to sit in a classroom and recite number bonds and spellings. To me, education goes far beyond that of the classroom. Travel is an enriching experience and I believe the kids will learn far more through experience and mixing with other cultures than they ever will sitting in a classroom.
4 - It did me no harm
I went on term time holidays pretty much every year when I was at school. I even went on holiday during the week before my SATs and enjoyed a 10 day trip to Spain just 3 weeks before my GCSEs. Do you know what happened? I received the highest SAT scores in my class and 12 x grade As at GCSE. I took work with me and don't believe the holiday did my grades any harm at all. My three children spent a week out of school during our trip to Spain last year and managed to catch up. Children's brains absorb information quickly. Children often have to take a week or two off school due to illness and the same applies - I just don't believe it's detrimental to their education. They don't suddenly start failing at life because they miss a few days in the classroom. I quite like the American system where children are allowed to go on holiday but need to take their work with them. This would work well for us I think.
5 - It's double standards
Families who home educate are not monitored at all. They can go on holiday whenever they please and are never checked up on. Families who can afford to send their children to a private school are also exempt. Why do the government enforce their rules and think they should apply to some children but not others? Surely if they feel so strongly about this issue (strongly enough that it's a criminal offence), it should apply to all children? Why are some children's education deemed more important than others?
Many schools close for teacher training days during term time and if their school is being used as a polling station. Why are these deemed as an important reason to miss education but a holiday is not?
Finally, most schools will take your children on residential school trips. Most of these trips cover the same sort of things we do on holiday - camping, visiting London ect..... some even include things like a trip to a theme park which isn't necessarily what you'd think to be educational (although I can see the benefit). Why is it ok for schools to take our children on these experiences during term time but not parents?
6 - Life isn't all about education
Since when did life start being all about education? Yes, it's important but to me, a happy child who has been nurtured at home and grows up surrounded by love will grow up to be a much more successful and well-rounded adult. Life isn't all about your ability to pass a test.
There is SO much more to life than being academic and there's a big wide world out there for the next generation to discover. To me, this is super important and equally as important as gaining good grades.
7 - Paying the fine is cheaper
Although you are breaking the law if you take your children out of school which I know won't be for everyone, not all schools and LEA's issue a fine and if they do, £60 is still a lot cheaper than the £3500 saving I'll be making on my holiday.
8 - I don't believe their education will suffer
I believe if parents are savvy about when they take their children out of school, there will be no risk to their grades. For example in December, a lot of school time is taken up with Christmas crafts and school play rehearsals. I know there will be some learning still but if parents liaise with schools they can plan better and plan not to take their children out at key times.
9 - Have the government not got anything better to do?
Seriously, have the government not got anything better to do? Why spend precious money and resources on fighting this unpopular battle with parents? They should be focusing their efforts on the school funding crisis and ending child poverty rather than going after hard working families who deserve a bit of slack!
Because taking your children out of school is a criminal offence, this immediately puts a barrier up between parents and school and I've known my own friends to tell lies to their child's school about holiday plans. This is what it has come to! We are teaching our children that lying is ok and parents are often too scared to have a conversation about holidays with school. Sad times indeed!
I'm a bit of a rebel and if we do end up booking a trip to Mexico next year, it will probably be in December for 7 nights during term time. If I get fined, I'll just suck it up and pay. Despite being strongly opposed, I don't want to end up in jail! I am a sensible parent - I think most of us are! As long as we don't take the mick and start taking our children on holiday during their GCSE exams or every other week, I don't feel like there's a problem. As the children grow older, I don't think I'll continue to do this as I know they are put under a lot of stress in High School anyway, but whilst they are still in Primary school, I'll continue as I am.
Here are my solutions:
1 - Staggered school terms
The North East could have different terms to the North West maybe? Our school holidays could be in July and the North West's could be in August? We could take the two weeks before Easter off and the North West could take the two weeks after? This would help the issue of expensive school holiday prices I think.
2 - Allow 5 days authorised absence
I think it would be helpful if at the beginning of the year, school could send out a timetable and block off key exam/learning times where authorised absence was not allowed but then maybe highlight when absence would have less of an impact (Christmas week and the last week of the year for example). This would help parents minimise any catch up time. I don't believe this would suddenly result in an influx of term time holidays but do think it would help some parents out.
3 - Flexi schooling
I've looked into flexi schooling quite a bit and love the concept. It's kind of a cross between homeschooling and traditional schooling. For families who travel quite a bit, this is worth looking into.
4 - Home schooling
I know of a few parents who have taken their children out of the education system altogether because they're unhappy with the government's attitude to targets and testing. Many parents (myself included) want a more holistic and child-centred approach to their child's learning and for many, home-schooling is the only way to do this. Homeschooling isn't for me but I can certainly see the appeal - especially when it comes to travel.
What do you think? Has the Supreme Court ruling changed how you feel about taking your children on holiday during term time?