Having just come back from a holiday myself (yes, it was lovely thank-you – but don’t feel at all ready for school on Monday!), I was interested to see the petition that’s been set up to ask the government to reverse their ban on kids being given permission to miss any school for holidays.
Surprisingly, I am inclined to agree with the petition (and have signed it – check if you want). Of course I am not making light of kids missing school, and it would be grossly irresponsible, for example, to take a Year 10 out of school when Controlled Assessment Coursework was happening. But the legislation isn’t the way to address it.
Firstly, your typical irresponsible parent will just take the kid out anyway. You can’t physically follow them to the Costa del Sol and drag them back to school, after all. They may decide to lie and say the child was ill – and there’s not a thing you can do to disprove that – or just not bother and so it’ll go down as unauthorised absence. So it’s the conscientious parents who’ll actually be affected by this.
Secondly, kids do miss school for other reasons. For example, we have an exchange scheme with New Zealand and Canada which involves some of our Year 9s going over there for a few weeks during term time. Oooh, they miss school! And even though they go to school with their exchange partner in Canada or New Zealand, they won’t be doing the same material… they have to manage some combination of looking at the missed work in advance and completing it when they come back. So I’d be hard put to say that a Year 9’s education was going to be irretrievably damaged by their parents taking them out for a week, and that’d go even more for younger kids, I would have thought.
Thirdly, not all missing school is equal. There may be some teachers out there (and there’s the odd one in our school) who make the kids work seriously right up to the last minute of the last lesson of each term. But most of us don’t, to be honest. It’s a bit of a shame to miss all the nice activities that happen at the end of term, but it isn’t educationally disastrous to take kids out then, really, whereas at other times of the year it’s far more significant.
So I think a bit of common sense, flexibility and discretion is called for. Missing school should certainly never be taken lightly. The parents and kids need to realise that if they take them out for whatever reason, that will create difficulties, and it’s their responsibility to catch up (and they can’t expect, as of right, the teacher to reteach it all to them individually). Some kids will find it much harder to cope with missed time than others, and that’s something that should be considered when making decisions about allowing absence. But can anyone really say we shouldn’t allow a kid to miss the last day of term, say, if it’s going to make the difference (due to flight prices) between a family affording their holiday and not doing so? I certainly wouldn’t.