Tonight (20th October 2016), ITV showed a program about term time holidays and whether they are damaging to a child’s education. It was a fascinating watch for me as I come from both sides of the argument in that I have been on both sides of the fence. The crux of the arguments were as follows:
Arguments for taking your child out during term time:
- The cost of going away during school holidays is significantly more than the cost during term times – sometimes 50% more.
- It’s up to the parent not the state about when they take their children on holidays.
- Parents know more about what is right for their child than the schools or state.
Arguments against taking a child out during term time:
- Evidence suggests that children who go on holiday during term times don’t achieve as well at GCSE’s.
- A day’s learning lost is a day you’ll never get back.
I actually have some problems with all of these arguments.
Firstly, what evidence suggests that children who go on holiday during term times don’t achieve as well at GCSE level? Does this evidence relate to children in Primary Schools or are we talking about children taking holidays during their GCSE years (in which case I think that might make sense!)? Does this evidence relate to a child taking a few days out once a year for a holiday but otherwise being in school with good attendance, or is it related to children who take several weeks out a year and have poor attendance as well? How did they collect this evidence? How long has it been collected for? I think there are too many questions here for this evidence to stand up!
With regards to the argument of taking your child out in term time – it’s not that I disagree with the arguments ITV forward but I think that it is far too simplistic to put it all down to the cost of holidays. I think the biggest argument for taking a child out of school for a term time holiday is the amount of learning that will take place whilst they are away. For example:
- Learning about travel – visiting airports, train stations, experiences of different forms of travel. I don’t think real life experiences should be underestimated – in fact some schools take children on trips to airports, bus stations etc!
- Learning about new cultures – discovering new foods, visiting different attractions, meeting new people, picking up snippets of new languages.
- New experiences – and this can be anything from learning to swim, to body boarding, or climbing a mountain. In fact anything that they don’t do in their every day lives.
- Social skills – learning how to interact with new people, spending time eating with their families every day.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg – I’m sure you can think of so many more learning experiences children will have on their holidays.
As a Headteacher, I was keenly aware that Ofsted took into account the attendance records for the school when making their judgements on the school, and therefore it was very important to me for the school, that our attendance was as good as we could possibly make it. However, I disagreed and still disagree with the fact that one or two weeks holiday would make a significant difference to a child’s education on it’s own. Yes, as a teacher it is hard to help a child to catch up with work missed, and the school year moves so fast that it’s difficult to find the time to spend 1:1 with a child. However, I found that parents were really open to taking work away with them and ensuring that their child kept up to a certain extent with the basic skills (reading, writing and maths.)
I do believe that if a child is regularly missing school for a variety of reasons, then it can and will have a significant effect on their education. At this point I do think a fine to discourage the parents taking their child out of school for even longer may work as a deterrent, but in reality this is a really small number of families!
What is your take on this? Would you take your child out during term times for a holiday? I certainly will!