With the Easter school holidays having arrived, we are now back to the usual stories of parents taking their kids out of school, before term time is over. Can I ask you a simple question? With the exception of the schools and the councils, does anyone really think this is a bad thing?
This week Jon Platt was unsuccessful with the Supreme Court announcing his trip to Disney World was ‘unlawful.’ But other parents have done the same thing and had more favourable outcomes. Since when did this become an issue?
As always there are a few people who abuse the system. The ones who are happy for their children to be off school when there’s nothing wrong with them, the ones who are regularly truant, because they can and are really not bothered about school. But every good school will know these parents and kids. For everyone else though, why should we be put in the same box?
What teachers fail to realise is that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. I don’t know about you, but even as an adult I am still learning things every day and I expect to do this up until the day I drop off my perch! Travel is the best way to enrich the young mind, why deny children the chance of this? Textbooks can only go so far, but the real world; beyond the school gates, beyond the house and the nearest town, awaits. You can soak up all the varied cultures, languages, music, food, the list goes on.
Ok, so maybe you were agreeing with me to a point, (be honest!) but the doubters will say, that’s fine, but do it in the holidays. It’s true for school kids half the year is theirs to do as they choose, for the private schools even more so. Except travelling in the school holidays is hell. I work in travel so I get to see the problems first hand. For a start there is having to be planned out nine months to a year in advance. Anyone wanting to travel in February half term with us, will need to get planning now and hurry up, come June this will be all booked up. Most parents only think as far as the next holiday, so already this idea is gruelling.
Then there are the prices. The airlines and accommodation charge us around four times as much for the delight of taking our little ones away. And why, other than a big, fat cash in? The roads are congested, France will probably have an air strike so if you’re heading to Europe your plane might not even take off, everyone’s in a foul mood, the kids are screaming, halfway through Security you realise you left their ipad charger at home, the youngest is in a strop because you dragged him out of bed early, the eldest one really wants to be with her boyfriend and not another embarrassing holiday with the parents. Other than the travel industry, who is winning here? It’s meant to be your relaxing holiday, and instead you’re stuck in a pile-up on the motorway or sitting under the flight board willing your flight to not have ‘delayed’ written next to it.
Even when you do manage to reach the other end, youngest child consoled under the disguise of a considerable bribe for forgetting the charger (bad Mummy, no games on this holiday for the smallest one!), the headache does not end. If you’re on a boat it’s full of kids and enough people you want to avoid, (there are only so many walls you can hide behind!), your resort with olympic-sized swimming pool and pool bar has a wave of arm bands with fathers trying patiently, but really impatiently to teach their darlings to swim, the hotel restaurant has a kid demonstrating to the whole room the power of his/her lungs. Why would anyone want this?
Most of the clients I work with are older, kids left home and now they are independent from twenty-four hour parenting. It means they can travel whenever they want, for as long as they want. Once in a while one strays into school holiday territory, but usually when I remind them, they hastily shift their plans to a fortnight before/after. Although I am finding more of them are having to check that the weekend they planned for their Italy opera break, is not when they are on grandchild babysitting duties!
When I was eleven my parents decided to take me out of school for a four month trip around the world. Looking back we were extremely lucky that there were no penalties for doing this. When my parents informed the school, they were told it would be a wonderful experience. On my last day the kids had a leaving party in class for me. The teachers packed me off with school books in an aid to continue learning. I picked them up once in the four months! But the point was they recognised that school room learning only went so far. We have to experience life first hand, and I feel a much better person for it. Difference is a good thing to me, and I want to embrace it.
Of course we have to have a balance. If all parents took their kids out of school in term time there would be a decline in teaching, and in exam year every moment of revising is oh so important. But why no leniancy, why can we not find a better way? Why a fine that makes it look like you are a bad parent putting a holiday before your child’s future? Surely one or even two weeks, once a year in term time if the parents inform the head beforehand, is no big problem. Why the rigidity? Kids can catch up when they return. Let’s face it, we have to when we return to work. This would also mean an end to ludicrous school holidays pricing, now that has to be a good thing!