Is it really so wrong to take a term-time holiday?

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Today, the Supreme Court ruled that dad Jon Platt must pay his fine for taking his children out of school during term-time. But would you be prepared to pay the fine, if it saved you enough money on your holiday?

And is there anything wrong with letting your children miss a few days of school?

I’m a dad and a teacher so I can see the issue from two sides. I know how hard teachers and schools work to get children learning.
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But I think parents should have the choice to take their children out of school sometimes.
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We’ve all had that sharp intake of breath when we’ve looked at holiday prices for when the schools have broken up. Most of us have winced when we’ve compared those sky-high fees to the prices a week or so earlier or later. It’s easy to accuse holiday firms of ripping off parents, though they would argue they’re simply operating a market controlled by supply and demand.

Whatever the reasons, term-time holidays are cheaper and we’ve all been tempted to take them.

It leaves parents in a tricky position: do you go away during term-time, knowing your child will miss some lessons, or do you leave them there, knowing your treasured family break will cost two or three times as much? It’s not feckless or lazy, and it’s not a decision that parents take lightly.

Times are tough and money isn’t going as far as it used to for a lot of us. For some of us, a couple of hundred pounds can make the difference between having a holiday or not having one at all. For others, maybe it’s the difference between having one holiday or having two. And we’re not just talking about exotic destinations either – even a no-frills caravan holiday at home can skyrocket in price outside term-time.

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When I’m teaching children, I always want them to make the best progress they can – it’s in the job description. And educators are under more pressure than ever to see results on paper or on spreadsheets – not just at exam time, but right throughout the year, from term to term. Sometimes, teachers’ pay rises depend on getting that progress for every pupil. I understand the weight of expectation.

And yes, sometimes missing a week of school might mean you miss a piece of learning. It might be something hugely important; it might be something you might never need. I’ve taught traveller children, for example, who miss weeks at a time, and have to catch up through packs sent by the schools away with them. It’s not ideal. But all the same, I always try and remember that what I want in the classroom isn’t always more important than what parents want for their children. You have to respect that decision.

There’s something else, too. Holidays are learning. Maybe not the book learning or practical learning that schools require for specific subjects – though there’s no harm in taking a few books away with you to read on the beach. But there’s learning in budgeting money when you’re away, paying for things, exchange rates, and so on, before you’ve even left your hotel room. You can learn a lot, see new places, become a more rounded young person, see different cultures, try new things and, more importantly of all, spend time enjoying your parents’ company. You can’t really put a price on that.

I’m not saying all parents should take their children out of school for 39 weeks a year, of course not.

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But I think we can forgive a week here and a week there. If pupils come back refreshed, invigorated, ready to learn and full of ideas, very little harm has been done – and perhaps a lot of good.

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  1. tim

    what if 50% of the kids in a class decided to take the same ‘odd week’ eg the one before the easter holidays? Is that acceptable from a teacher’s point of view?
    What if I take my kids on holiday with no intention of learning anything? Is that OK too?
    Would you say it is a parent’s right to go on holiday, at whatever time of year is is financially possible for them?

    • Stuart

      The first question comes up a lot and makes me wonder if that has ever happened in any school…ever. When the court case made the news there was never a reference to a period when this occurred, so I would consider it unlikely – and that includes going back to a time before there were any punishments for taking kids out of school.
      Even if you don’t deliberately seek to teach them something, there is a chance they will learn – be it about a different culture, geography, food…any number of areas that you just haven’t considered.
      There will always be considerations for the child – is it an exam year? Are they currently struggling? Have they already missed school because of illness? Most parents will weigh all of these points up before making a decision. You will always have those parents that only think of their holiday and will disregard what is best for the child. However, I do not think that is the majority and I don’t think we should legislate assuming the worst.

  2. Alyssa

    I think kids learn so much in everyday life, that a holiday could be a massive learning experience for them. I think it should be down to individual cases.

  3. Mrs H

    It is such a conundrum and I am not sure there is a correct answer. I do believe that it needs to be considered on an individual basis. When I was 13 my parents took me out of school either side of the Easter holidays to go on a holiday of a lifetime to Australia. It was the most wonderful few weeks and a time I will never forget. My Great Uncle lived there and during that holiday he taught me astronomy, the history and geography of Australia, how to solve a cryptic crossword and what to look for to win a bet on the horses! It was a much better education that learning about the Beattitudes in RE. And I actually managed to catch up with all my work. I even managed to do some exam revision on the roof of the Parliament building in Canberra. Plus I was so relaxed and happy when I came home that I aced my summer exams! Hugs Lucy xxxx

  4. Lisa (mummascribbles)

    Zach isn’t at school yet so it hasn’t been a problem for us but it will be next year. I honestly don’t know what my answer would be with him being at school. I can see both sides to be honest!!

  5. Kay

    As a parent and teacher myself, I’m actually all for Holidays during term time. I wish I could do them myself! Attendance, is an important issue and as long as you’re child has good attendance otherwise, I don’t see it as an issue. What you gain from holidays, and time with family is far more important. Though during GCSE year’s is another story. x

  6. Amy @ The Smallest Of Things

    We’re not of school age here but I’m dreading having to pay so much more during the holidays when the time comes! Also how busy with the holidays be if everyone is having to use that time? I think holidays can be educational obviously depending on where you take them!

  7. Lucy Melissa Smith

    I do agree with you. My daughter is likely to be homeschooled so I’m not sure how that will work, I assume it won’t apply to us and we’ll be able to take her away regardless? Either way, I think a week or two isn’t going to make too much of a difference if the parents and the child are committed to making up any missed learning. I can see why it can be a headache from a teacher’s point of view though and if every child did it they would be constantly having to make sure that everybody is on the same level etc. which is more work and I can imagine it would be very frustrating too! It’s a tough one but I know I’d do it for the cheaper prices. We struggle often so, like you said, it could be the difference between having a holiday at all or having to give it a miss which would be upsetting for the child anyway as their peers would be going away and they wouldn’t have the chance. I think every family deserves that special time to make memories, not just the ones who can afford to go away during the holidays.

  8. Sarah

    It’s tough because every child is different and will cope with catching up differently, but ultimately I think it’s a parents decision and they have to be responsible for any outcomes.
    I feel there’s far too much emphasis on academic outcomes at any cost and less about the mental well being of children these days, even ignoring this particular topic.

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