Let’s not allow school to get in the way of a child’s education…

And so I am back after a fun-filled half term break – for us ‘break’ was the key word… son vs. fracture clinic is our life for the next few weeks! (See previous post!).

I see the debate over term time holidays rages on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29744465

With every twist and turn all I see are different parties blaming and counter blaming one another and all the while, families and more importantly, the children, are losing out. As a young, idealistic (child-free) teacher, I couldn’t see the issue, school time was learning time, holidays were for fun and anyway, if I couldn’t take advantage of cheaper holiday deals, why should anyone else!! Oh, how naïve I must have been. Of course young people lose out when they’re not in the classroom learning – but that’s only IF there is learning opportunities are taking place. But how much emphasis is placed on the educational benefits out of the classroom? The precious time spent with parents on foreign trips or one-off events? As a parent I like to think I can see the opportunity in these types of activities – but then to be fair, my own kids get tired of me trying to weave ‘learning’ into a simple day out at the local beach! I don’t even try to be subtle anymore – they see straight through me – so if it’s geography, or history or just a plain old lesson on manners, I tell them! Yes, I know they roll their eyes and make faces behind my back (normally encouraged by the Hub!) – but they could recite cave/arch/stack formations as a result of coastal erosion long before it was part of their geography classes!

On a serious note, I am also aware of those parents who have in the past taken advantage of the flexibility once offered by head teachers. How is a day out at a theme park for one child different to a 2 week holiday in Cyprus for another? How difficult must it be for the Head teacher who has to say yes to one and no to the other? There are strong and sensible cases for and against both of these examples and I can see how LA’s and Head teachers have moved towards a zero tolerance on authorising time off – who really wants to make the ultimate decision? I mean, after all, classrooms are for learning, aren’t they?

Family friends wanted to take their children on a special anniversary holiday OVER the half term holiday. But the remoteness of the destination meant flights only departed twice a week (Friday and Tuesday) – an authorisation request for absence on the last Friday of term was declined. There was no cheap flight advantage here. Just a practicality issue. How much learning do you think the child missed…. well, I can tell you… nothing, zero, nowt! She missed a Friday film, extended play, a little bit of guided reading and hot dogs as a treat at break time.

At the end of year 5, just before rules were tightened up, we took our daughter out of school on a Monday in June. She travelled the previous day to London with her dad, camped over night and queued at a ridiculous hour in the morning for tickets to Court No1 at Wimbledon. She saw Federer, Djokovic, Serena Williams and Marion Bartoli. She experienced an atmosphere many adults I know today haven’t felt. She spent what her class teacher at the time called a ‘Daddy Day’ – something she will cherish for many years to come. Decadent? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely. It happened because the time was right, we could afford both time and prices and I’m not sure I ever want to take that kind of opportunity away from her. Best of all was that she got to share this with her friends back at school in a show and tell activity.

So I may take a bashing for not following the education line… classrooms are for learning and all that. In all my background research with trusted colleagues and friends (many of whom are also parents) it was hard to find anyone who wholeheartedly believed in the currently practice of refusing leave except for exceptional cases. Perhaps what we need to be doing is turning this requests into learning opportunities – encouraging our youngsters to share their experiences, weave the curriculum into the everyday – are you telling me a foreign family holiday couldn’t contain elements from most of the curriculum? Perhaps the answer… if parents want to take their children out of school during term time, then they ought to commit to providing them with an alternative learning environment! How much fun would that be… the science of Rollercoasters explained or the history of the Greek Gods!

Night all!

MJ xx

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