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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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
Shaun, Teignmouth, UK
04 Oct 01 | Education
Parents 'forced' to holiday in term-time
04 Oct 01 | Scotland
Holiday's 'affecting school days'
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