Term time holidays – should you or shouldn’t you? Well according to the Supreme Court, a council is currently not able to fine a parent if they can prove that their child is in school regularly. In the case they heard, the child in question had a school attendance of over 93% across the school year, which definitely constitutes a regular attendance. So, what effects does a term time holiday have? As a former Primary Head, and as a parent, I don’t think the subject is as black and white as the Government would have us believe!
Benefits Of Taking A Holiday (Term Time Or Otherwise)
In my opinion, it is incredibly short sighted of the Government to suggest that the only time that children learn is in school time. Surely, time spent with families, visiting new cultures, having new experiences, travelling in different ways, eating new foods, learning new languages – this is all learning, just a different way to in schools. Neither is particularly better than the other, they complement each other. I’d say that really you need both!
For some families, for a huge variety of reasons, they are unable to take holidays during the allocated school holidays. It could be down to finances, being unable to take time away from work during school holidays, schools having different holidays – the reasons go on and on. So for some families, a term time holiday is the only chance they have to get away together.
How Does It Affect Learning?
The Government would have you believe that taking a 5 day holiday during term time could seriously damage your child’s chances at getting good grades at GCSE. I am not in a place to comment about Secondary School children, but I struggle to see how this is possible. A week’s holiday taken in Year 1 is NOT going to damage your child’s education significantly. And according to researchers, there is also no proof that it will affect any tests taken in primary school either!
Some commentators have pointed out that schools follow a sequence of work and your child may miss out on some fundamental learning. Whilst I agree that they follow a sequence of work, I can also say that nine times out of ten, each area will be covered more than once in a school year, and several more times over the course of their time at Primary school. So they are definitely not going to miss out on this learning forever. In fact, most parents I know asked the school to give them homework to take with them so their child could keep up!
Commentators also point out that teachers are parents and do not have the ability to do the same and take holiday during term time, so therefore why should other parents have the option to? It’s an interesting conversation, however teachers know when they go into the job that they won’t be able to do take holidays during term time – it’s part of the job they have signed up for. Although, as more and more academies come into being, there are now several schools where teachers are able to have a more flexible working term and can potentially take leave days during term time!
The Reality – What Does Affect Learning?
The reality is, children who regularly don’t attend school, WILL have their learning affected. Children who, during a school year, attend less than 90% will have missed around 19 days of learning which is a large amount. This type of absence may affect their learning in one year, and if this absence is persistent (over a period of years) then understandably their learning may be damaged.
However, missing school for a week or two in primary school, when attendance is excellent during the rest of the year, won’t cause your child to drop a grade at GCSE based on that alone. As long as your child’s attendance is normally well above the 95%, then a week’s holiday abroad during term time won’t, on it’s own, cause huge detrimental harm to their education.
Making The Decision To Take A Term Time Holiday
- Check what your child’s current attendance is. If they have had a lot of sickness or general absences, then another week off school isn’t a great idea. Anything under about 98% BEFORE the holiday isn’t a great plan. However, if your child hasn’t had much sickness and is pretty much there every day, then a week’s holiday isn’t going to do them any harm and in fact might do them a lot of good!
- Check whether it is a crucial time of the school year. Will they be missing a school play that they wanted to be part of? Will they be missing end of year tests? Is there a dance show coming up that they want to do? Be sure to check the school diary as much as you can before booking your holiday.
- Inform the school! This is a key one. Even though it will nearly always be unauthorised, if you don’t inform the school then they will quickly inform the Attendance Officer that your child isn’t in school and it can prompt some unnecessary stress for both you and the school. After all, it’s polite to let them know what’s going on.
- Ask for homework. Regardless of the benefits, it is obvious that your child will be missing some days of school, so ask the teacher for a heads up as to what they will be covering in key lessons, and see if you can build that into the holiday.
Ultimately, it is up to you, the parent, to decide what is best for your child. If you strongly believe that your child should be in school 100% of the time, then that is right for you. If you believe that it would be beneficial to your child to take them on a holiday, and can reassure yourself that they are in school ‘regularly’ then that should be your decision.
At least until the Government change the law!