This has been a post I’ve been thinking about months, probably since before The Beast was due to start school, but for one reason or another I’ve always stopped typing after the title. Possibly because I started Googling and got sucked into looking at photos of beaches and pools *glares at the frost outside*.
But recently this has become an emotionally charged subject, firstly (probably) because people have started booking for during the holidays, but secondly I think it has come into the limelight after a couple were fined and threatened with jail for taking their three children to Rhodes for a week during term-time.
When I read the various articles about the case, the quickly banged out Facebook comments, the tweets, heard the discussion in the playground, I kept quiet, not because I agree or disagree, but because I wasn’t 100% sure of the full story. There are so many factors that need to be considered, and like most cases of parenting it’s not just black and white.
I’ve continued to go about my days grumbling about the prices of flights quietly to myself (not that I can/can’t afford them, more just how much they’ve increased), grumbling about the guilty feeling in the pit of my stomach when I consider taking days out of school, and grumbling about how my weekends seem to disappear at a click of a supermarket visit and a flash of an ironing pile. But then the other day I got a call from BBC Radio Lincolnshire asking me if I’d be interested in coming onto the Peter Levy show to voice my opinion. Without thinking I said, “yes please!”, posted a little note on my Facebook and Twitter so anybody local could listen if they wanted to. Then I tripped off to the school run and swimming lessons and didn’t think much more about it other than “I wonder if I can slip in a link to my book?”.
Later that evening, I came back to Facebook to see a barrage of comments and likes, I chose not to really voice my opinion, wanting to see how the debate progressed. I’m always quite interested in provoking a reaction after all. It soon became clear that even though I’d not voiced my actual opinion on the subject, the assumption was well and truly planted that I was totally up for taking the kids out for a week or so during term time, the assumption was that I was going to stomp my feet about the prices of flights, that my indignation would ring loud and clear, probably all because I have been known to take my children out of school a couple of days early before the end of term.
Now we all know what an assumption makes don’t we? (God I hate that saying, but sadly it’s true at times)
Because that’s not my opinion, not at all. My little slot with Peter was over quickly with Rosie Nicola from Hull City Council giving her views. Which, even though I disagree with certain points, I do understand. I didn’t really get the opportunity to put my full opinion across – nobody’s fault, that’s just the way it is.
You can hear our short piece here. It is rather short, and I didn’t get chance to say much, but I’m about 20 minutes in. The story before me is so sad.
So what is my opinion?
**DISCLAIMER – I WILL PROBABLY USE THE WORD PERHAPS A LOT**
I can understand the need to improve attendance, however, I do believe that the current policy shows a lack of respect to both the school’s own judgement and the majority of parents”.
That’s the comment I put at the top of my cheat sheet by the way, that I never got to say (I didn’t get to say much from my cheat sheet to be honest).
I’m not saying I have the knowledge or the stats to hand to offer an unbiased, correct suggestion about how to move forward…however, obviously the system is flawed, as Rosie Nicola admitted. After all, in the Hull District alone they have had to implement 338 fines since September 2013, as opposed to the 476, which were implemented in 2012/2013.
Now, I appreciate that part of this is because of course, now the head has no discretional rights, those who would have perhaps signed off as authorised without a fine, are now unauthorised with a fine, but it’s still a significant increase to be counted as a process that is working. Although I’m sure the government think it is, after all, the total fines for Hull alone will probably equate to £100k by the time the year is out… Put like that, it does make you perhaps question if it really is concern for education, which has driven the change in policy.
None of us want our children’s education to suffer, or their absence to impact the class, but this is where discretion and working together could perhaps be beneficial.
Perhaps a better, more balanced approach would be to pass the responsibility back to the individual schools so that they can make a decision…perhaps the decision can be made with more stringent criteria, such as attendance, progress, and meeting homework deadlines? Perhaps that would then incentivise parents and pupils more?
But that wasn’t working before was it? I’m sure that’s what some of you are saying. To which my response would perhaps be…
Surely a more mature approach then a blanket ban would be to work with the schools that have low attendance.
(I’m shrugging here by the way in my naivety of things I may be missing, because to me it seems quite simple).
As much as I loathe having to type this…I don’t blame the holiday companies. As many people will argue, it’s supply and demand. I don’t agree with the massive hike in prices, I don’t agree that a flight to Malaga airport the day before May half term more than doubles once you hit the holidays, nor do I agree that Center Parcs increase their prices by nearly THREE TIMES during the school holidays, but…who can blame them? I mean, in the current economic climate, a business has to make money where it can, and it’s not as if it can (or should be), making much money during term time is it?
There. I said it. I don’t blame the holiday companies. The current issue, which is getting my goat, is not about the cost. It’s not about having a holiday abroad, a week in the sun, it’s about finding time together as a family away from home.
To me, this isn’t just about cheap flights, or a week at Disneyland at a more reasonable price. It’s about a few days in Center Parcs, a long weekend at the seaside, seeing relatives who you haven’t seen for ages, a day out because Daddy isn’t allowed any time off during the holiday and mummy works shifts. There should be some provision for parents to make a call as to what is best for a child’s overall well-being. Education isn’t the only consideration, time together as a family is important, and whilst it’s not a human right to have a holiday, what is wrong with a hard working family being able to take a few days away from the distractions of day-to-day life. However, circumstances, constraints mean that it’s not always possible to have this during school holidays. Price is obviously a factor, I’m not going to pretend it’s not, but that’s not an argument I’m getting into on here, I’ve said what I have to say about the holiday companies, because they’re not the only factor, it’s right up there with work demands, availability of parents. Which in turn is made far worse by the demands of everybody who has children attempting to squeeze leave in at the same time.
In my opinion, if it’s managed properly, and on an individual case, I really don’t think it should cause any detriment to our child’s progression. I’ve already said I’ve taken The Beast out during term time. We try and keep it to the bare minimum but due to circumstances we have had to take one or two days at the end of term before. I have always asked for homework, and last half term managed to pick it up via email whilst on the beach, and it was completed before we returned back to school.
I like to think that part of the reason his education won’t suffer from taking time out during term time, even at a minimum, is because of the relationship I have with the school. I work hard to ensure homework is done, attendance is high, we are always on time, and we participate in what we can. Not because I think that will get him special attention, but I’m hoping it will encourage him to grow and develop, to respect being on time for things, to respect deadlines, and to work as a team. To not be afraid to speak up and talk to people. I think a relationship with the people who you educate your child with (because it’s not just them who educate them is it? It’s us too), is so important. It worries me that this current legislation, whereby people are being threatened with bans and fines is damaging relationships, which in my opinion, is far more damaging to your child’s education.
Again, it’s not the money that really bothers me that much, and I think that’s where people mistake the charged emotions, which run alongside this subject. Whilst for some people that will be at the front of their complaints, perhaps the fuel to the indignation is that at the end of the day, no parent likes to be told they’re doing a bad job, and by being reprimanded for sometimes needing to take their children out of school during term time, and being fined and threatened with jail, that’s what’s happening.
Peter asked me yesterday if “a couple of days” was an acceptable amount of time off school, and my answer was a short version of this.
The people who are involved with the children on a day-to-day basis should be able to treat each case individually. To agree that a blanket 5-10 days is an acceptable number of days to allow a child off school defeats the entire point of this post. You cannot put a blanket rule on children, life, and circumstances; it should be taken on a one by one basis.
I’m not suggesting schools should encourage term time breaks, in fact, I believe they should still actively discourage it, but I do believe in encouraging parents to talk to head teachers about the circumstances, and allowing the head to use their discretion.
So if we step away from the black and white argument, the one which is shouted the loudest “it’s breaking the law” versus “it’s costing too much”, and look at individual cases, the fact the government are belittling the opinion of the very people who can make an informed decision which is best for everyone involved, is actually what we should be addressing.
Thanks for reading.