With the first spell of fine weather, our thoughts naturally turn towards the summer holidays and a week or two away, probably with the younger members of the family. Or do they?
For those of us who work in education, or if we are parents of school-aged children, we are locked into taking our holidays when the schools are off. This inevitably means paying over the odds (+ 50% is not unusual) for our holidays as tour companies cash in. It is little wonder that cash-strapped families are tempted to take their children out of school in term time for a much-needed family holiday that is only within their budget at restricted times. Sometimes, by just leaving for holiday a day or so early, or returning a day or so after the start of a term, a family can save hundreds of pounds. So what is the harm?
The Government and most schools take a dim view and are very quick to point out that much vital information can be missed at the beginning and end of a term. Additionally, it imparts the subliminal message to children that school is secondary to other things and can be shelved if something more interesting is on offer and that there are plenty of opportunities during the school year to go away. Teachers also have to work twice as hard to ensure that absentee pupils catch up on learning that has been missed for avoidable reasons.
Conversely, it can be argued that often the end and beginning of terms are times when not a lot happens in schools and therefore it will make little difference if Johnny is there or not. There is sound evidence that time spent together as a family has many benefits on a child’s social and emotional development and chances to be together in a stress-free environment are to be treasured. Time spent in a foreign country or surroundings very different from the home environment can be an excellent learning experience improving geography, history, art appreciation and cultural understanding. Sometimes more can be learnt outside the classroom than in it.
Currently parents and carers are being fined varying amounts for withdrawing their children from school in term time. Many parents take the view that paying the fine represents good value when factored against the savings to be made on the price of their holiday and so many honest and well-intentioned parents are deliberately flouting Government advice. They are also putting themselves at odds with teachers and schools when they should all be on the same side, working towards the same goals.
Who is ensuring that travel companies does not use the school holidays as an opportunity to make an even faster buck? So far there seems to be little regulation of this area and the people who operate within it. Until such a time as someone steps in to look at price comparisons before, during and after school holidays, this unsatisfactory situation will continue. The only winners are the travel companies.
What do you think? Would you or have you taken your children out of school during term time? Do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages?