“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
August 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm
I’m usually quite critical of people’s blogs (in my head – I never comment negatively as I believed blogs should be about a writer giving their opinions without being hated for it). However, with this being my first ever comment, I would like to say that I couldn’t agree more with every single point you make.
I completely understand why parents would want to take children out of school, finances often being a large factor for poorer families and agree with it fully. I had a child in my year 6 class who was away the week before SATS. He did exceptionally well (much better than predicted even weeks before the test) and when asked he said he felt more relaxed having had a bit of a break.
I also understand that as a teacher I will never have the luxury of taking my children out of school for a holiday but accept it (unlike some of my colleagues) as we are already blessed with long summers to spend with our families and other breaks too
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August 13, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Really good points Paul. The Y6 one being of particular interest. What can a Y6 child learn the week before SATs that they do not already (Should already) know? Thank you for taking the time to reply.
August 14, 2015 at 9:47 am
At last: some common sense – and I agree with everything you say. I taught in primary schools for 15 years at Senior Management level. I can honestly say in all that time I never felt any child was affected detrimentally by taking a term time holiday. At worst, there were 2 or 3 key learning objectives which I needed to cover with them when they returned (usually Maths & English)- but that is easily done. Most of the other things really didn’t matter. And the language development as a result of the holiday and the excitement of having spent a lovely week with their families far outweighed anything they may have missed.
I left teaching when my children were born and started my own business. Since then, I have taken them out of school for one week each year in order to ski. There are many factors which may need to be taken into account when planning a holiday. In our case, working commitments make Feb and Easter an impossibility which would only leave the Christmas break. As I have a widowed 85 year old mother who has no other family, to leave her alone at his time of year would be incredibly cruel.
Their Primary School Head Teacher was of the same opinion as you; so long as attendance was generally good, she gave holidays with her unauthorised blessing. Unfortunately she left when my daughter was in Y6 and my son was in Y5 – and the new Head took a completely different viewpoint, repeatedly sending out letters about ‘how every minute in school counted and could never be replaced’. She looked rather silly when my daughter achieved level 6 in both the SPAG paper and for writing – and in fact is the only child at that school to ever have achieved a level 6 in writing. Interestingly, when reading some of her pieces, I recognised places we had visited as a family in her descriptions.
We are lucky; we can afford to take holidays when we choose. Not everybody is so fortunate however and NOBODY should be put in the humiliating position of having to explain that they need a holiday during term time because they cannot afford it otherwise.
Of course children need a good education – but they also need quality time with family/friends and the importance of this should not be underestimated. Life is not just about targets and work; it has to be a healthy mix of fun, relaxation and leisure as well or we will end up with a country of thoroughly miserable individuals, to say nothing of increased mental health problems. And there is nothing ‘fun’ or ‘relaxing’ about taking a holiday at a time of year when everything is so crowded that even getting a parking space or a table at a restaurant becomes a major achievement. To say nothing of traffic jams and queues. People should not have to work hard all year in order to end up with an overpriced second-rate holiday.
The classroom is important – but my goodness so is the big wide world outside it. It’s about time this was recognised.
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August 14, 2015 at 11:29 am
That is really interesting and I agree. How can you give such rich experiences in school? School is vital but 5 to 10 days away with family is a learning experience as well. Even if it’s just about learning to have fun. Thank you for taking the time to reply.