Travel is Education – But should we be taking our kids on term time holidays?

*This is a collaborative post* 

Travel is Education – A statement I wholeheartedly agree with.  Nobody can deny that there are huge benefits to giving children the opportunity to travel and explore.  The question is should this travel be allowed to take place during term time? 

As a primary school teacher I do understand the Department of Education clamping down on term time holidays. I don’t think it’s ok for a child to miss two weeks of their education every year for a package holiday to Spain (one extra week of holiday per year amounts to almost three months of missed schooling over the course of their education).  What I do have issue with is the blanket ban approach.  The general theory is to improve school attendance and avoid any detrimental impact on future educational achievement.  I get that.  It does make sense.  What doesn’t make sense is stopping children from taking exciting opportunities to discover things about the world we live in, to explore how other people live. 

As I teacher, and therefore someone who can’t take term time holidays anyway, the money thing really doesn’t wash with me.  I don’t get to go on cheap holidays, I get to go on holiday at a set time of year when I’m not working and I get to pay top dollar for that!  (Or in reality we just don’t really go on holiday because we can’t afford it – holidays are not a divine right are they!?)  I know other families have similar situations where they’re not actually able to take holiday during the school holidays as it’s a peak time for their employer – presumably that means they’re not allowed to go on holiday either?

Dave & I last went abroad together in 2008

That said, as a Mum I am of the attitude that why shouldn’t I take my kids on holiday as and when I want to?  They have great attendance (in fact they both have 100% attendance) so really what damage would a week or two off do – two weeks of quality family time, two weeks of experiencing a different culture?  Two weeks of experiencing stuff . . .  stuff they won’t experience in Manchester.  I’m not saying I would take them out every year but, occasionally?  I really don’t see the harm.  Surely I should be able to discuss my plans with the Headteacher and make a sensible balanced decision about what’s best for my children – why does the government get to decide this?  Headteachers used to have the discretion to approve up to ten days of absence in each academic year for family holidays -perhaps this should have been reduced but I really don’t think that authority should have been rescinded.  Headteachers should be trusted to make an individual judgement based on the child’s attendance record, their current level of progress and weigh up the potential benefits (or negative effects) that the leave may have.

I went on a couple of term time holidays as a child – to America, I only actually missed a week of school each time as it was tagged onto the Easter holidays.  Has it affected me?  Yes I have some great memories of a fantastic family holiday – I haven’t, however, missed out on dramatic swathes of my education causing me to fail at life!

The fine is currently set at £60 per pupil, per parent, per day – at the moment Chloe is under 5 and so this doesn’t legally apply to her but still – a potential fine of £120 a day for Ben is pretty hefty.  (And why is it per parent and not just per child anyway?!) My Mother in Law will be getting married on a school day next Spring . . . Do I really have to break the law and pay a fine of £120 to allow Ben to attend?!

So yes I see why the ban has been put in place but I disagree with just how tight those restrictions are.  There needs to be some common sense and flexibility applied to allow each situation to be judged on its own merits.  Life experience plays a huge role in education; giving context and meaning to the abstract concepts taught within the classroom.  Travel IS Education.

7 Comments

  1. March 16, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    I am disabled and wanted to take my son on a trip of a lifetime. He was learning about the Roman's and we were going to cruise round Italy. He went to Florence, Naples, Venice. Now you can't get more roman than that. Due to my health Improves needed to take my parents in case I got hospitalised on the trip. They are full time carers for my 93 old severe dementia gran. To do this my aunt from South Africa had to come over. We couldn't afford term time and it's the onlonly holyhe has ever had in term. We asked for permission and refused. My son is dyslexic and for 3 yes I've done 1hr of tutoring a day to help him. I was furious. They just said no it wasn't an exceptional circumstance. He learnt more that week that he would remember than he would ever in class. It's just wrong!

    • March 16, 2015 / 9:23 pm

      I'm glad you took him! I totally agree with you – it was hardly a regular occurrence was it? There's just no common sense is there.

  2. Hannah J
    March 17, 2015 / 12:35 pm

    As a kid I remember having the odd afternoon off to go away, for example when we went to bible camp in May bank holiday we might finish at lunchtime on the Friday and travel up that day to the camp but those afternoon's off got rarer as we were older because we could stay up that bit later into the evening or get up and organise ourself on the Saturday morning.

    Although Jaxon is under one and his education is along way off, we have occasionally discussed education and how we want to teach Jaxon, things like would he go to Nursery, would he go to school or would we home school. We are in the situation where home schooling might be an option and as excited as I am about it I'm also terrified that I won't teach him enough or the right stuff. Guess it's something I can research as he gets older and figure out how to track what we've done and what we need to do. We like the idea of being able to travel during term time, learn about places and then actually go and see those places.

    I have a friend with four kids, so four kids, two parents, one day off is heading towards £500 – that's almost how much it takes for one of the kids to go on holiday.

    I may have read how a family were fined for taking the kids out of school to go on holiday during term time, the dad was in the army or something like that and his tour of duty finished so they wanted to go on holiday before his next tour started (which was before the term ended) but the school refused to let them have the time off. I think they went anyway.

  3. March 17, 2015 / 3:08 pm

    Great post. I know we've spoken about this before and I think I will try my hardest to take the kids on holiday during the school holidays BUT if an opportunity arises where we need to take them out during term time I hope the schools look at it on a case by case basis x

    • March 17, 2015 / 7:36 pm

      Unfortunately they're not able to Donna – the schools have no say in the matter and the unauthorised attendance is flagged up with the LEA who deal with it themselves. I think most schools would appreciate the opportunity to deal with it themselves with a measure of common sense.

  4. Karen Monkeyfooted Mummy
    April 1, 2015 / 12:06 pm

    Well said Colette, I have taken my kids out of Nursery for a holiday but swore once they reached compulsory school age I wouldnt! Now they have reached that age… well Im waivering especially faced with the amazing travel opportunities my husband has coming up!

  5. April 2, 2015 / 1:29 pm

    I'm with you – schools should be the ones with the authority. And it shouldn't be given to children who're always off, truanting, misbehaving, or not up to date with their schoolwork. I think a week every other year (depending on exam time) isn't going to ruin schooling. Let's face it, there are children who're off sick more than that and they don't get fined for being off and getting behind with work.

    I think if parents and teachers agree some activities that could be done while away, and reported back to the class on return, then it's made more educational.

    We're one of the families who can't go away in school holidays, having a farmer husband – summer's definitely out, but even half terms and Easter doesn't work with timings on the farm.. That means we'll unlikely ever have a family holiday unless we have an understanding head.

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