Family and Parenting, Topical

Term-Time Holidays for School Children: Where Do You Stand?

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that the case against Jon Platt should be upheld. On reading a sensationalist headline and subsequently the story, I (as many – or even most – others) was quite disheartened at the outcome: despite not yet having school-age children myself, I feel that as parents we should have a right to decide what is in the best interests of our families – and that extends to term-time holidays for school children.

I shared the story on my Facebook page and one of the comments on my post made a very good point: schools often arrange holidays during term-time, and this is completely legitimate.

Essentially this leaves us in a situation whereby teachers are allowed more jurisdiction over when our children can holiday than we are. That’s hypocritical and as far as I’m concerned, plain wrong.

Another point made is that there’s very often a wind down period in the final week before school breaks up. Again, this smacks of hypocrisy.

However, the fact that the particular story I shared was written by the Daily Mail Fail really should have alerted me to the possibility that we couldn’t completely trust the facts as they were presented, ie. not exactly in context. My brother suggested I watch the Supreme Court ruling for myself, and on doing so, several things became clear:

  • Yes, it’s true that the Supreme Court upheld the prosecution;
  • Yes, it’s also true that the case rested on the interpretation of the wording ‘regular attendance’ and that Lady Hale applied a definition which is arguably questionable;
  • The case was referred back to the Magistrates Court, where the final verdict will be decided;
  • Lady Hale made it quite clear that headteachers retain the power to use their discretion, and should do so.

With all this in mind, I’ve had to slightly adjust my position: I actually believe the Supreme Court made the right call – it’s important that schools are able to clamp down on irresponsibility where relevant. However, I still believe leniency is appropriate in many cases, such as Jon Platt’s. If attendance is good and pupils are supported at home, I have no issue with parents taking their children out of school for term-time holidays. These types of experiences are enriching and valuable, and many teachers agree!

And, by the way, let’s also not forget that careers and our routes into them are changing dramatically – I know this better than most.

I studied fairly hard at school and did reasonably well in my exams. I subsequently fell into a job I hated and was stuck in that industry for around a decade, until I took a break to become a mother.

I’ve since built my perfect career around my vocation. It’s still evolving – perfectly in time with my family. I work the hours I choose, the way I choose, with whom I choose. I love what I do and I’m able to earn an acceptable part-time income, which I hope will only increase with time and as I’m able to commit to (even) longer hours. I work damn hard – but everything I’ve done has no basis in any of my prior education.

Don’t get me wrong – obviously a basic education is essential, and we’re privileged to have access to that. But my point is that we need to move with the times, and be open to the realities of the way education does – or does not – lead onto a successful career.

There are instances where other less formal/traditional personal development will be more, or at least equally, beneficial.

I asked other parenting bloggers for their views; here’s what they had to say:

They were never going to let him win the case against the local authority /government! It would undermine the establishment too much. I don’t agree though!

Emma, Emma and 3

I think as long as your child has excellent attendance that sits in line with the school/national average you should be allowed one holiday within any one academic year up to a maximum of say 10 school days (2 weeks). I think more needs to be done to tackle poor attendance too though and also price hikes on holidays during peak months.

Laura, Mum of Five Staying Sane

I have never taken mine out of school, however this year I will be for the first time, in May we are going to Crete for a week & will be taking the eldest out of school. He had excellent attendance, luckily he is rarely sick. He is ahead in his work. I see no wrong in taking him out for a week, it will be a trip of visiting cultural things. Not just a pool and a beach. Our day jobs meant that last summer we didn’t get any annual.

Leave together, so we couldn’t go away. It’s the same again this year in the summer holidays. I think children should be able to make memories with their families and have some time to learn in different settings other than school.

Sarah, Champagne and Petals

 

So as a parent I am outraged as I don’t see that anyone should have the right to tell someone how to parent. If a parent wants to take their child on holiday then they should be able to. Holidays benefit children in so many ways, help to bring families closer together and show them that there is more to life than working.

As a teacher …. I am also outraged. Even before I had children I would still encourage parents to take their children out of school if it meant they would get a family holiday. I don’t agree that it will ruin the child’s future. If a child is doing well in school then it will only be beneficial.

Obviously if a child is not doing well then this needs to be addressed and dealt with in a case by case situation. Now what DOES infuriate me is the fact that parents do not support their children at home anymore. So many people have the view that it is the schools that educate and they play no role. THOSE are the children who will fail in school. I had a boy in my class ask me what a bedtime story was once. Can you IMAGINE?? Those are the parents that need addressing not the ones who want to show their children the world or have some well earned family time.

Katy, What Katy Said

I think more needs to be done to look at the increase in costs during school holidays, if those can somehow be curtailed, it wouldn’t be such an issue.

Steph, Hello Baby Blog

Term-time holidays for school children

I have taken mine out of school (for 3 days before half term) I wasn’t fined but couldn’t get permission either. It was only 3day but in the week that we were in Mallorca for my dad’s 65th birthday my daughters learnt Spanish by speaking with locals, learnt how to cook a traditional paella dish and my daughter who has an interest in photography took some photos of the food we enjoyed and of the stunning views and mountains, yes my girls missed 3 days of school but they didn’t miss out on an education – I’m a strong believer that you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn.

Becky, Sparkly Mummy

I’m not surprised by the outcome. I don’t agree with it as I believe that travelling with family can be of great educational value. I don’t feel that this was the best test case for it personally. A lot of families who take their children out of school will be able to demonstrate cultural value of those travels, that’s difficult to do with the holiday that this family went on, not that I have anything against that. I feel that more discretion should be given to individual cases and that attendance should be taken in to account.

Jennifer, My Mummy’s Pennies

 

It doesn’t change anything for me. If I want to take my children out of school I will. My children, my choice. I’ll pay the fine if I have to. I want to visit Mexico with the kids next year to see the Mayan Pyramids. To do this in the first week of December will cost us £3500. To do it over Easter or the summer holidays (also hurricane season) will cost us £7k. I can’t afford £7k but don’t want my kids to miss out so we’ll be going in term time. Travel can be more beneficial than sitting in a classroom. Education goes beyond the classroom.

Samantha, North East Family Fun

How can holiday time in a different country be detrimental to a child? Quality time with their family? As it is, not all parents can afford to take their children anywhere in designated holiday time – now that’s detrimental to their education. Education does not begin and end with the school day. If holiday companies didn’t hike costs in Summer holidays, more children would be able to see the world, and spend time relaxing with their less stressed family.

I think parents who ensure their children attend as regularly as their health allows are penalised to compensate for the non-attendance of children who are truant constantly. They can’t recoup those losses and so turn to this. It’s very, very disheartening that now if my headteacher decides that MY child should be in school when I believe they’re not well enough, I could be fined. I can decide whether to vaccinate my children, but not if they need time off school. Ridiculous.”

Sara-Jayne, Keep Up With the Jones Family

 

I think the focus is in the wrong place. Rather than fining parents who take their children out of school for 5 days a year who otherwise have an excellent attendance record more should be done to get those with low attendance attending school regularly and helping parents with the barriers they face in getting their kids to school everyday. These are the children who are suffering and aren’t getting a good start in life.

Clare, Clare’s Little Tots

 

I don’t see a holiday as a necessity and I think school time should be for exactly that, school. I appreciate everyone loves a holiday but it really isn’t a necessity and there is nothing wrong with half term breaks in the UK or even camping, which costs next to nothing and doesn’t have to be in half term, it could be at the weekend. Parents know the guidelines in place and if they choose to go against them, knowing they will receive a fine, they should pay the fine. There are children in this world who don’t even get a chance at an education, and here in the UK too many take it for granted.

Sophia, Tattooed Tealady

 

If the government wish to improve attendance in school they should look at the cause of the problem rather than a solution which moves us no further forward. The majority of parents take their children out of school for affordability reasons, caused by the inflation and profiteering of holiday companies. This is the problem which needs to be addressed and yet the government seem intent of punishing the people who trying to do the best by our future generation- letting children experience the world- a change of environment- quality family time are surely not the aspects of today’s society which we would wish to punish?

Debbie, An Organised Mess

Term-time holidays for school children

Sooo don’t agree with it and echo all above comments. If my children are working well and have good attendance I will take them out. I refuse to pay hiked prices, cope with July and August heat and how rammed places will be. My best memories as a child are holidays… not school lessons. Its quality family time and you can’t put a price on it!

Sarah, Run Jump Scrap!

 

I think if you have given plenty of notice, your child’s attendance has been good then I don’t see why a school cannot support said child going on a holiday during term time. It’s cheaper {for starters} and the educative value exploring other countries can have is amazing compared to reading a textbook in a musty classroom.

Deborah, Super Busy Mum

 

I think if children’s attendance is good, they work hard at school and are reaching the level they should, then why not let them take a week off. I don’t agree with 2 weeks – 2 weeks holiday is definitely a luxury although there should be some way of allowing for special cases and is going to have a bigger impact on missing school. If a family can only take that specific 2 weeks off due to factory closure etc, then it’s harsh to penalise hard working families. But holidays are luxuries and I think the expectation that everyone should be entitled to them and take their children out of school every year for 2 weeks is a bit much.

Having said that, if my husband ever agreed to take time off work, then we would have little choice to request a bit of time off outside school holidays. He works 7 days a week farming, and school holidays throughout the year (apart from October) all fall at key working times of year when he can’t get away from the farm. But I told him if he was going to take N out of school then he can do the asking.”

Emma, Bubbablue and Me

 

I think it’s very sad that we aren’t trusted to make the decisions for our own children unless we pay to privately educate. If it is SO harmful to education the law should extend to private education also. It doesn’t though does it. So do the government just care less about privately educated children? I doubt it.
I already strongly feel that there is far too much emphasis placed on formal education at a young age and I think a holiday doesn’t hurt during the primary years. I always had a holiday in term time at primary school and I have excellent grades and a very good career. It did no harm.

Have to say during secondary school id support this ban on holidays in term time though as it’s a more intensive and important part of school life and genuinely quite difficult to catch up.

Fiona, A Mum Track Mind

 

I’ve got two views on this from a family growing up who never had much money , we only went to north Wales for a week at the end of August/ start of September. We always got a last minute deal very cheap and cheerful. While all my friends were flying off to Spain & Greece. Some of my happiest memories are from those weeks in north Wales. So I can’t see the big deal from staying in the uk or only going when you can afford to go on holiday – if we all stopped traveling in July & August the holiday companies would soon sit up and listen

But now as a parent ( child in year 1 ) we booked our holiday in the August holidays and as we’re literally flying in the day school starts ( land at 7 am ) the holiday was £800 cheaper.

Worst case he misses a day.

It infuriates me that the holiday companies are holding us to ransom & the government are telling us what we can and can’t do while there strangling our education system to the bone.

Emma, The Cheshire Wife

What do you think? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.

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3 Comments

  1. Katy (What Katy Said)

    April 7, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    Brilliantly written as always! And good on you for checking facts away from the main story! Thank you for including me x

    1. Kate Tunstall

      April 8, 2017 at 9:03 am

      Ah, thanks Katy, and thank you for taking part x

  2. katykicker

    April 8, 2017 at 9:16 am

    I think parents should be able to make decisions, to a certain extent, however, we all know that not all parents will make good choices. I think a 5 year old missing 1 week a year isn’t going to have the same impact as a 15 year old missing 1 week would. Each case should be judged on its own merits really.

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