Ever since local councils were given the authority to fine parents for taking their children on holiday during term time, the issue has been at the forefront of conversation amongst parents of school aged children. We’re not at that stage yet, but having worked in the education sector and having travelled a lot in my life, I have quite strong opinions on the matter.
A father – Jon Platt – recently refused to pay the £60 fine incurred for his daughter’s unauthorised absence from school for a family holiday. The fine then doubled and if you read or watch the news then you’ll have undoubtedly seen that in a High Court ruling, the court ruled in his favour because his daughter had a good, regular attendance overall.
A win for parents? More likely a reason for the Government to change the rules and close the loophole that resulted in Mr Platt’s victory. He won based on his argument that the prosecution couldn’t show that his daughter didn’t attend school regularly because over the year she still had a 90% + attendance, which is the threshold for truancy as stated by the Department for Education.
I occasionally went on holiday during term time and I think it’s safe to say that mine and my brother’s education didn’t suffer. I have travelled extensively in my 29 years on this earth and every single trip has been highly valuable to me. I’m not saying that school isn’t valuable because I’m a huge advocate of getting a decent education, however not all learning is done in the classroom and by restricting families to expensive out of term holidays, many children will miss out on what I consider to be critical life experiences.
The argument that parents shouldn’t be able to take their children on holiday during term time simply because it’s cheaper to do so is utterly ridiculous. The cost of both UK and foreign holidays increases exponentially during the school holidays, to the point where many families are priced out of going at all. These children will therefore miss out on experiencing new cultures, languages, foods and family time away from home. How can we expect our children to respect people from around for the world if they don’t have the chance to interact with them?
Tolerance, acceptance and understanding come from more than simply sitting in a classroom and being told a government-issued rhetoric.
Education is important and goodness knows it’s something that is at the forefront of my mind when it comes to our children. We want them to go to a good school but ‘good’ to me, comes down to more than Ofsted ratings and exam results. I fear for the state of the education system in this country and the very fact that travel is not valued but over examination is the be all and end all, concerns me greatly. Phil and I wouldn’t constantly be taking the children out of school for family holidays, but if doing so once a year was the difference between them seeing the world or never leaving our small rural town then the Department for Education can just try and stop us!
There’s a huge difference between the odd holiday which can broaden the views and knowledge of children, and persistent truancy. There’s a huge difference between parents who believe in a well-rounded education for their children and those for whom the idea of school is pointless. Surely somewhere along the line, common sense must prevail and parents who ensure their children attend school, are clean and well presented, who engage with their children’s educational development, will stop being punished?
It’s a contentious issue and I understand that councils would come under fire should they fine some parents and not others so guidelines do need to be in place. My fear is that yet again, a statistic is the deciding factor. Like the SATS exams, a figure on a computer dictates whether or not a child is deemed a success. On paper I was a successful student in primary and secondary school based on exams but a college drop out. The truth is that I vehemently disliked most of my school life and I was a success because of the support of my parents alongside my ambition to do as well as I could in order to get as far away from school as I could. I was then a ‘failure’ at college because those family holidays my parents had taken me on were of such value to me that I was learning more from travel than I was in the classroom. I needed to get out of the system and I can hand on heart say that leaving education at 17 and going travelling made me the person I am today.
I fully expected this to become quite a long and rambling post so I do apologise for that but the overall point is that unless travel companies will make holidays affordable all year round and stop capitalising on parents being penalised, unless the Government starts to realise that its version of success isn’t the only measure of success in life, unless parents can start to have some level of autonomy to make decisions on their children’s education and what counts as educational, we’re trapped.