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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 08:30 GMT 09:30 UK
Term time holidays: Should they be banned?
As many UK schoolchildren are on their half term break, new research has shown that almost four in ten of parents have taken their children out of school to go on holiday

Cost is the main reason given by parents for sacrificing their children's education. With a half-board week in the Mediterranean costing a family of four around 3,000 in term time, the bill jumps by around 25 per cent in the school holiday season.

Many parents view travel as a vital and integral part of family life but they resent being penalised by both exploitative holiday companies and inflexible councils.

Should local authorities stagger school holidays to enable families with children to take advantage of travel bargains? Or is it wrong for parents to jeopardise their children's education for the sake of a cheaper holiday?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.



If you can't afford to go at peak times every year, then save up and go every other year instead

Chris Charles, UK
People are talking as if holidays were a right not a privilege. You wouldn't expect to be provided with a holiday if you couldn't afford one yourself, and your children's education is just another issue you have to take into account along with cost and your own leave from work. Many people don't have a holiday. If you can't afford to go at peak times every year, then save up and go every other year instead. It's shocking that people can treat education with such levity and think that selfish pleasures should come before it. Some people are unworthy of the opportunities given to them.
Chris Charles, UK

I am told that I made the decision to become a teacher, and therefore have to put up with the restrictions that that imposes. If people decide to have children then they also should have to accept the restrictions that that means.
Graham Tipping, UK

I think there are far more important issues to be dealt with than this. When children find it hard enough to get a decent education thanks to the disruptive behaviour of a minority of pupils, I'd say this is an insignificant problem and resources would be better spent ensuring those who are in school get the education they deserve.
Bill, UK

It would be terrible if a law of this kind was ever enforced. My dad worked away from home, and it was always very hard to hit on a time when both myself and my brother were off school, my dad was at home and a holiday we could afford was available. I do not consider taking one or even two weeks a year off to be damaging. I am now nearly 19 and have a good job working for one of Europe's largest banks, and my brother who is 21 is a third-year medical student. Taking time out from education is not a problem as long as it is done correctly, giving the school prior notice so that any major work can be completed before the child leaves.
Paul G, Newcastle, UK


We parents do not make this decision lightly

Janice, UK
As long as it does not impact on term exams, I feel it is more beneficial for a child to have a family holiday. This helps them bond as they spend more time with their parents. Also, as stated in previous comments, this is beneficial for their education, i.e. foreign cultures, language, etc. Perhaps the debate should be on why the prices are so high that to many low-income families they are prohibitive during half-term time. We parents do not make this decision lightly. We consider what is happening at that time in school and ensure our children have adequate homework, and catch up so that the onus does not fall on teachers when our children return to school. And those of you who don't want to have "families" about when you are on holiday, then you have the choice of holidays, hotels and areas which are off-limits to children. Choose them!
Janice, UK

Taking our children abroad should be viewed as part of their education. If there isn't anything to be gained from such experiences, then why do schools offer trips abroad during term time? I have been informed that it is relevant to my child's education. Have I been duped then? Also, the final week before the end of term is usually filled with playing games, and not much work!
Lynn, UK

My children and their Australian cousins have almost no school holidays in common. Thus when we eventually get to take a holiday together it is bound to be in someone's term time.
Mark Thornton, UK

Although I am aware that going on holiday during term time isn't the best thing for the child, I have to have holiday when I can take it because of the demands of my job. Surely it's better for my son if he has a father who is less stressed because I have managed to get away from everything for two weeks?
Neil Goat, UK


It depends how the children are getting on at school

J Raby, England
I think it depends on how the children are getting on at school. Those who are ahead in their work, and who would have no trouble catching up would not suffer at all from missing a week or so. It would however be different if a child was struggling to keep up, in this case it would add to the workload of teachers and not be responsible.
J Raby, England

To all those demanding peace and quiet from kids during the "off-peak" weeks, please remember it's the poor families being ripped off by the travel companies who are subsidising your cheap breaks.
Mark, UK

As a teacher I am firmly of the opinion that taking a child away on holiday during Term time for one or even two weeks is damaging to that child's education, and also has a negative effect on the rest of the class as the teacher is expected to spend extra time ensuring that the pupil knows what is going on when he/she returns to school.
Giles Falconer, Deal, UK

In response to Giles. I work in various schools in London and in a number of them the most dangerous thing for your child's education is sending them to the school in the first place. Some inner city schools are positively damaging to your child, and certainly do not contribute to any form of education. A holiday from a hellish environment spending time with parents away from the street life may be the best education experience some kids get.
Gordon, England


Any such ban would be petty to say the least not to mention utterly unenforceable

James Pittman, England
Any such ban would be petty to say the least not to mention utterly unenforceable - it'd just lead to a sudden rise in kids being "off sick" for a week.
James Pittman, England

Restricting the rights of parents to take children with them travelling is tantamount to revoking freedom of movement. The government can literally decide when families leave the country. Surely the best people to decide this are the parents and not the government.
Tez Houghton, UK

If the Travel companies didn't apply such extortionate rates to holidays during school holiday times, then there wouldn't be any need to. There is NO reason why fares should be more in the summer. It's just sheer greed.
Keith Simpson, UK


We shouldn't take the influence that travel has on our children lightly

Christophre Laird, Tokyo, Japan
Isn't this a case by case issue? Some kids need more tuition than others or find it harder to catch up and mid term holidays could affect their education, especially if done every year. Let us NOT forget though that holidays can be an education as well. Given recent incidents that have been exacerbated by ignorance of other cultures, we shouldn't take the influence that travel has on our children lightly
Christophre Laird, Tokyo, Japan

Both my partner and I work full-time, we both find it difficult to get holidays together, if they fall outside of the school holidays then we have a decision to make. Take our son from school for a week to go on holiday as a family OR do not have a family holiday. For us cost is an issue, but we would rather pay more if we could go on holiday together, sadly we have only managed that once in the last three years, as we have taken the decision not to take our son out of school. But is it fair on him? I know I miss going on holiday as a family!
Neil Watson, England

I think some people are forgetting the importance of a family being able to spend a block of time together - with my dad's shift work, we would not always see much of him at weekends. My education certainly didn't suffer as a result of taking time off, but I don't know if the same could be said for my childhood if I wasn't allowed holidays with my family because the timing wasn't right.
Sarah Beach, Australia

In Holland they have a staggered system for each region and it rotates every year. This way the theme parks are not always full and you can take advantage of the cheaper package deals. Holland also requires that if you take your child out of school, outwith these times you require a headed letter from your employer or a written explanation why, from yourself. If you do not follow this procedure you can by fined a sum of money per child per day.
Alan, USA

Yet another example of whiny parents who care more about their own wallets and comfort then they do about their own children. If you can't afford a foreign holiday during the school breaks, then don't take them! I really don't think it gets any simpler than
Linda, NYC, USA

Taking a few days off on occasion isn't remotely going to "jeopardize" a kid's education, to suggest it would is ludicrous. And the pro-ban folks are totally ignoring the beneficial effect such holiday time has on say the health of the parents marriage and the quality of life for the family, and indeed a better family relationship benefits the child's life and in turn their education far more than those extra few days in class.
Stephen, USA


A child's education comes first, no matter what

I Baldizon, USA
A child's education comes first, no matter what. A holiday that a parent wants to take during the school season is not a good reason to take a child out of school, period. Sacrifices have to be made. I think that some parents are being selfish and using the high prices of vacation packages as a mask for their own issues. The bottom line is that parents are not willing to sacrifice or schedule their lives around their children's needs. What are we teaching our children with this attitude? Its no wonder so many kids are not interested in school or learning what responsibility is.
I Baldizon, USA

Staggering the holidays would have a disastrous affect on the school timetable I would have thought. Anyway, the holiday bargains are only there because that is the period when there are fewer customers. Surely if more customers were available then the bargains wouldn't be there? Why don't they worry more about providing a better education rather than worrying about cheaper holidays?
Phil T, Oman

Taking your child out of school for a holiday just because you've decided to do so is simply truancy, the only difference is that it is truancy condoned by a parent. If you're happy to have children then having the inconvenience of not being able to go on holiday whenever you like is part of the package. You can't always have what you want. It's not only kids that need to grow up - a lot of their parents (especially some on this forum) need to as well.
Simon Moore, UK

I am a primary school educator, and I believe that if parents took their children's education on as their responsibility and didn't lazily dump their kids on the schools they could take the family anywhere at anytime and learning would not suffer.
Richard Hicks, Amarillo, Texas, USA


I have no intention of letting some teacher tell me how to bring up my child

Huw Sayer, UK
As a father I have no intention of letting some teacher tell me how to bring up my child - I will do what I feel is best for them. Teachers are public servants and they need to remember that. They are there to do a job on behalf of parents. We have not assigned them rights and responsibilities over and above our own.
Huw Sayer, UK

Huw Sayer, teachers are not paid to do a job on behalf on parents. They are paid by us, the taxpayers, to produce useful and productive citizens out of what is, in many cases, frankly dubious material. So are you parents, now I come to think about it. Please stop turning your offspring into losers and dropouts at everybody else's expense!
K Wilson, Australia/UK

Ten years ago, a neighbour whose daughter attended the local non-fee-paying grammar school was curtly told by the headmistress that if she took her daughter on holiday during term time, then she should not bother to bring her back - as plenty of other girls in the borough would love a place at the school and would also attend at all times. This is as relevant now as it was then.
Phil, UK


Truancy is still truancy

John Bennett
Truancy is still truancy. The parents are irreponsible for taking their children away from education. But the travel companies should be held to blame - they are exploiting peoples desire for holidays at any cost.
John Bennett, England

I will take my children on holiday during school term, until the Government place pressure on the travel industry to stop inflating prices during term breaks. In the company that I work for the holidays are issued in seniority order, so unless you have been there for 10 years or so you don't get the choice of the high season
Martin, UK

I know from my own experiences that missing just one day off school, whether it was for illness or whatever, was enough to leave me wondering and fearing that I had missed out so much, especially when a new topic had been started in my absence.
Sofia, UK


There's no excuse for taking your kids out of school just to lie on a beach and go to discos for 2 weeks

Charles Moore, Scotland
I think it's OK provided it's properly co-ordinated with their exams and homework etc. Also there should be some advantage to the development of the children. There's no excuse for taking your kids out of school just to lie on a beach and go to discos for 2 weeks. By taking advantage of off-peak prices I've been able to take my children on foreign holidays, which we would otherwise have not been able to afford. This has always been done with the aim of giving them the opportunity of learning about other peoples and developing their foreign language skills. Day for day, they would have learned less in school.
Charles Moore, Scotland

Not only should it be illegal to take children on holiday during term-time but the school holidays window should also be as small as possible. Thus childless holidaymakers can have a bit of peace and quiet when they go during the cheap season.
Martin, England

Not only should they ban pupils going away on holiday during a term time, they should also abolish half term holidays all together. We, as slave driven taxpayers have to foot the bill for these kids' education, therefore they should be made to make the best of it, and goofing around on holidays when they should be studying hard is an insult to those have to pay taxes.
Michael, UK


What about the parents who can't go away except at specified times?

Jeff, UK
As a hard working tax payer myself, price is my main consideration when choosing a family holiday. If Michael, Martin or Hazel had children then they would see that it makes economic sense to go when the prices are cheaper, rather than pay extortionate prices of the travel companies. There are other reasons as well: The weather is usually more reliable abroad - Question: What to do when it rains here? Answer: Spend money keeping kids entertained; Teachers have less students to teach, thus improving the standards for those left behind - returnees can always catch up; What about the parents who possibly, due to their company's policies, can't go away, except at specified times? There are as many arguements for as against, but why is it only now that this issue has come to light? Leave well alone and carry on as before I say - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".
Jeff, UK

Perhaps it's the obsession with foreign holidays that is the issue - but it would be good to find a way to stop holiday companies exploiting this market
Bob, UK

As a parent, I will take my holidays when it suits me and my job, but obviously I wouldn't take the kids away at critical times.
Andy, UK


When one has children one must expect to make a few sacrifices

Hazel, UK
When one has children one must expect to make a few sacrifices, inflexibility of holiday leave being one of them. Children have enough holiday time without being taken away during term-time. Also, the fact that school children have around 14 weeks holiday time a year contributes and accounts high absenteeism levels in employment, without the child even falling ill during term-time. Personally, I would rather school age children go on holiday during their allotted holiday period and leave the rest of the year for the likes of us, who would like some peace and quiet, to take our holiday when the resorts are not overcrowded with families.
Hazel, UK

If the half-term holidays were staggered as is being suggested, and there was no peak season rush, wouldn't those off-peak travel bargains simply disappear?
Vicki, England

If school holidays were staggered no doubt the travel companies would adjust their prices accordingly. Parents must decide themselves which is the most important - cheaper holidays or their children's education - and live with the consequences.
Gill,


No choice other than to take them on holiday during term time

Andy W., UK
When my children were at school I had no choice other than to take them on holiday during term time - it was the only time my employer would allow me to have off. What other choice was there? Not go? Go on separate holidays?
Andy W., UK

I think it's ok provided it's properly co-ordinated with their exams and homework. Also there should be some advantage to the development of the children. There's no excuse for taking your kids out of school just to lie on a beach and go to discos for two weeks. By taking advantage of off-peak prices I've been able to take my children on foreign holidays, which we would otherwise have not been able to afford. This has always been done with the aim of giving them the opportunity of learning about other peoples and developing their foreign language skills. They would have learned less at school.
Charles Moore, Scotland

With wider parental choice and children going to schools in different LEA areas it is often the case that when one child is off another isn't. I have a colleague with three children all at different secondary schools and all operating different holidays making it almost impossible for at least one child not to miss some teaching time when they go on holiday. Why not standardise the holiday periods across all schools?
Dave, UK


I don't think that the occasional break from school has any lasting effect on the children

Shaun, Teignmouth, UK
I think the idea of school holidays being staggered is a good one although I fear that all that would happen would be Travel Firms hiking their prices up for a longer period to catch more people out. I took my family to Menorca last year during the half term. Not only did the cost rocket but we also found that many of the facilities had already closed down for the season. It's a double whammy. Anyway, I don't think that the occasional break from school has any lasting effect on the children, particularly when in so many areas the quality of instruction has deteriorated so visibly.
Shaun, Teignmouth, UK

See also:

04 Oct 01 | Scotland
Holiday's 'affecting school days'
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