“There is more to life than making a living. Do not work more than you live.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana

What is it about taking term time holiday that gets so many people hot under the collar? Holiday’s are an education. Holiday’s are where some of life’s greatest lessons pick you up in their sunny arms and take you away from the daily grind of life. Holiday’s are full of pulse, colour, history and, most importantly, friends and family.

Holiday’s are often seen in education as less important than school. Really? You mean a week in New York with a member of your family is going to be less of an education than a week in Primary, Secondary… or ANY school? A week in a caravan with your grandparents is less important than a week in school… On what criteria? Who is judging this stuff?

“For Satan finds some mischief for idle hands to do” Isaac Watts

Today it seems that the virtuous thoughts of Isaac Watts have been replaced with a new religion:

“For the DFE (And others) finds some IRK when state school attendance is not continuously getting better”

It is once again a data game hidden behind some flimsy premises such as school is your only ticket to future success.School UTTERLY failed me and I’m pretty happy with my lot. In fact my experiences working with Think Global tell me that companies that employ the TOP graduates are after more than a clever writer or mathematician. They are after someone who knows about life beyond limited boundaries. Richer families, especially those at private schools (Where holidays fall outside the usual high end costings), seem to have multitude opportunities to have exotic holiday’s whether it is skiing, international city breaks or family homes abroad. They get language and cultural experiences; They are well travelled; They have stories to tell about their lives. I don’t see these holidays holding them back? Whereas, Bertrand Russell would say that it was ‘virtuous’ attitudes to work that held people back, I would say that it is now political data games. We are so obsessed with numbers getting bigger that we forget to enable minds to grow.

“The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In England, in the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief*.” Bertrand Russell – In Praise of Idleness

Is there deeper reasoning behind policies that seem so damning on term time holiday? I am not talking about truancy or ‘poor’ attendance on a weekly basis. They are different and I deal with them accordingly through working with other agencies. But I find it hard to look a family in the eye when they ask to go away because a member of the family works through the summer and say, “It’s unauthorised and I should fine you…” In fact I don’t. I do say it is unauthorised (Because I have had that power taken away from me by the SoS) and I do explain that we have to monitor attendance carefully. Sometime I even need to ‘officially’ meet with the family to express my attendance concerns. But the holiday? They go with my ‘ unauthorised’ blessing.

The DFE say we need to come up with better ideas to combat holidays (A WAR on Holidays!) and the cheaper offers. Eveswell Primary School in Newport have put ALL their INSETS into a week in June next year to allow parents to book cheaper holidays, as it is during term time. This is clever thinking. But I imagine it will have other knock on impact across the school. All INSETS in one week though admirable for putting families first would be a strategic headache.

I know that this is a complex issue. My attendance is pretty good but I have worked in many schools where attendance is a real issue. The fear here is the only way we can improve attendance is to play hard-ball. Again, I would argue that in these schools (In my experience) attendance is NOT low because the parents are swanning off to Marbella during June. There are usually deeper roots to the attendance issues that need tackling.

What would happen if we relaxed this approach? Attendance in schools would drop dramatically? Anarchy? The working classes revolt? Holiday’s ARE not the problem in my experience. Attendance is complex; holidays are not. In my school holidays alone would still keep attendance above 98%. It is the other issues that need stronger focus. I would also argue that maybe there is a ceiling attendance figure. I remember when 95% was seen as ‘good’ attendance. Now 96% can be criticised. Why is progress always seen as increasing the numbers rather than developing the subject? Through making schools damn every parent who has (for many reasons) decided to take a holiday in term time we dig away at the core relationship between a school and family. We undermine the trust. This can have much deeper longer term impact than a cheap and windy April in Weston-Super-Mare with loved ones.

*It is interesting that the LONGER school hours debate is also in vogue