Should you take children out of school for holidays?

BEN BENTLEY looks at the controversial issue of taking pupils out of school during term time for holidays.

BEN BENTLEY looks at the controversial issue of taking pupils out of school during term time for holidays.

We're all going on a summer holiday. . . or maybe, on second thoughts following a word from the headteacher, we're not.

The sudden and instantly preventative rise in the cost of foreign holidays during school breaks means that for many Shropshire parents the only option is to stay at home. Or take their kids away during term time and face the consequences- a dilemma facing an increasing number of families.

But what are the rules? The practice of term-time breaks is frowned upon by most schools and banned by many. At least officially.

Some schools fine parents for taking their children out of the classroom, others allow a degree of compassion under their own discretion or due to special circumstances.

Shropshire Council schools have issued a total of 40 penalties to parents for taking their kids out of the classroom this academic year.

It's not the fault of the schools, which presumably can't be seen to condone what some might describe as a bout of truancy in the sunshine. Teachers say the practice can be disruptive to lessons.

On the other hand, for the hard-pressed parent struggling to give their kids a 'normal' childhood and some valuable family time - something that seems to be diminishing in proportion to the rocketing price of holidays — there is a decision to be made: should we stay or should we go? The issue hit the headlines last week when the Grove School in Market Drayton revealed two pupils missed GCSE exams because they were taken out of school to go on a family holiday.

Tim Wallace takes his six-year-old son Jamie on family ski holidays with a circle of friends. In term time this family holiday works out at £350 per person; at half term or end of term the same holiday costs in the region of £1,500 per person.

He says: "We take our son out of school during term time and I personally see nothing wrong with it at the right time.

"We have taken him skiing every year since he was born. We simply wouldn't be able to go if we had to pay term time prices.

"We go as a large family group. He would lose out if we couldn't go. The group won't go out of term time for expense as well as crowds reasons."

And not even a financial penalty will prevent parents from taking their children away, largely because, even accounting for the fine, the holiday in term time works out cheaper.

Tim adds: "Our school has a fine if people take their child out of school unauthorised in term time.

"We will pay the fine as even with £50 per parent - yes mad isn't it, 'per parent' - it's cheaper to do that than pay half-term prices."

And anyway, Tim argues there is educational value in the holiday.

"Our son has achieved his first French ski school medals," he says. "From his point of view, being quite under-confident, it gives him a huge boost. And he learns a lot of French.

"He keeps a diary, a scrapbook of his holiday and does reading and writing, so he's doing what he would be doing at school too."

Tim does, however, choose times to go away when important tasks and tests are not missed.

Overall, the issue of term-time holidays is a vexed one. So much so that many parents are anxious that should they comment on record, there may be consequences from the school, that they risk being called into the headteacher's office and asked to write lines: "I will not take my children on holiday during term time, I will not take my child on holiday during term time. . . "

Exceptional reasons

One parent, a 35-year-old working mother whose young son attends school within the Telford & Wrekin area, says: "We're taking our five-year-old out of the classroom and on to a plane on Monday.

"His primary school has a policy of not approving absences in term time unless its for exceptional reasons. We did request permission but it was refused.

"But we are going away anyway to Spain and have written to the school informing them. We have been told we won't be fined, but it will go down on his record as an unauthorised absence."

She says she wouldn't be taking her son if he was in secondary school, or preparing for exams, but believes the early stages of his education would not be affected.

"The airlines and tour operators are making it almost unaffordable to travel away during the school holiday period - the same flight in August is quadruple the cost, our villa would be double, times that by two adults and two children and a two week break in the main school holidays ends up costing nearly as much as a small family car!"

Adrian Hughes, a retired teacher from Welshpool, sees both sides of the argument.

He says: "Being retired now, I rejoice in the opportunity to go away when the schools are in session - cheaper prices, fewer people around.

"My wife - another ex-teacher - and I do also mutter under our breath when we see school-age children on holiday in term time, because when we worked it was quite disruptive to have kids away from classes, particularly in the run up to exams, as it affected the continuity not just for those children but for the class as a whole . . . 'We'd better not start the next topic while X and Y are away'.

"I think it's much less of an issue in France, for example, where education is much less influenced by what parents want!"

Headteacher John Rowe of St Mary's School, Albrighton, says: "We don't make it easy for parents to take their children on holiday in term time but we don't apologise for that - it makes parents think about what they are doing."

Mr Rowe says there is a direct correlation between performance and attendance and children can miss out on vital stages of work, even at the end of summer term when it's perceived, perhaps incorrectly, that days are dominated by egg and spoon races and wind-down projects.

He says parents can apply for up to 10 days of authorised leave but it's not seen as additional holiday time and mums and dads have to prove exceptional circumstances.

"If the leave of absence is to take part in a major sporting tournament, for example, yes they miss school but what they are getting is something extra, we need to be sensitive to that," he explains.

Parents such as Tim Wallace don't condone taking kids out of school willy-nilly, only when it's less disruptive to lessons and of benefit to the child.

But he adds: "People are going to continue to do it regardless of rulings."

  • What's your view about taking children out of school for term-time holidays? Tell us in the comment box below

What the councils say

Shropshire Council

What parents need to know. . .

  • The law says that parents do not have the right to take their child out of school for holidays during term time
  • Parents cannot demand leave of absence for the purpose of holidays as a right.
  • They are asked to consider seriously the educational implications for their children before making application
  • The headteacher does not have to authorise holidays in term time other than in exceptional circumstances.
  • Exceptional circumstances can only cover a maximum of 10 days in a school year
  • Taking an unauthorised holiday could result in each parent receiving a Fixed Penalty Notice costing up to £100 for each child.

Janice Stackhouse, Principal Education Welfare Officer for Shropshire Council, said: "The attendance data for the autumn 2009 term again demonstrated that the attendance rate of Shropshire children is better than the national average.

"In England the combined absence figure for maintained primary and state funded secondary schools was 6.13 per cent whilst in Shropshire the figure was 5.72 per cent. Shropshire's excellent attendance rates are due to the commitment of families, schools and the council to ensuring that the children of the county are able to benefit from the education to which they are entitled.

"Whilst the majority of families and carers to the county's tens of thousands of school children ensure they attend school regularly, in the cases where they do not the council will intervene with support and advice. In those cases of unauthorised absence the council will take firm action to support the schools and the children. Holidays taken during term time can have a negative effect on both the individual pupil and the other pupils within the class and therefore we encourage parents and carers not to take children on holidays during term time. During this academic year 39 penalty notices have been issued for holidays taken during term time."

Telford & Wrekin Council

In line with Telford & Wrekin Council policy, Apley Wood Primary School this month sent out a letter to parents which summed up the position. It said:

  • Unauthorised holidays may be subject to a penalty notice fine of £50 payable to each parent for each child, increasing to £1,000 each if not paid within 28 days.
  • Failure to pay this fine may lead to court proceedings.

At the start of June, Apley Wood School informed parents that it had received 154 requests for holiday, totalling 842 days - which equates to more than two-and-a-half school years.

Currently in the borough, headteachers do not have to authorise holidays in term time other than in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances can only cover a maximum of 10 days in a 12-month period.

However, from September a number of schools in Telford & Wrekin will no longer authorise holidays in term time.

Comments for: "Should you take children out of school for holidays?"

Treacle

I don't blame the parents, if holiday companies didn't inflate the prices so much it wouldn't happen. It costs a lot of money to bring up a child, parents work hard to afford to buy them the latest games and pay for out of school clubs etc and deserve to have a holiday to unwind relax and have quality family time and if the only way they can do this is by taking them out in school time so be it.

John Smith

Treacle - you've got it the wrong way round - it is not the holiday companies that cause the problem - they are the victil just as much as you.

They 'inflate' the price because the holiday season is so short. If it was longer and therefore clients available for longer the more costly periods wouldn't be necessary.

The answer is splitting holiday periods in different areas so that the overall season is longer and everyone doesnt need exactly the same dates.

paul

but its ok to send the kids home early from school tomorow just because of the football !!!

Jeff

“But we are going away anyway to Spain and have written to the school informing them"

Attitudes like this just make me despair for the future! What is this telling the child concerned? Oh no doubt the individual concerned will burble that its teaching them independant thought and all the other self-serving garbage people come out with to justify themselves in instances like this.

No, what its actually teaching them is that you can just arrogantly stick two fingers up to the authority of the school, do what the hell you like and damn the consequences thats what. Responsible modern parents? Don't make me laugh, arrogant and selfish more like.

edwin turner

this is where a major rethink of the wole education system needs to be done perhaps consented flexi-time for every pupil the same as industry i-e-floating days with the exams fixed to a time in the year when EVERYONE

SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO ATTEND and the endless mini breaks abolished to accomodate what i would call---continuous education

Matt

So you would then have to allow the teachers to be able to take holdidays when they want rather than in the fixed holidays and have a supply teacher teaching your kids?

Kids (and Teachers) do need a break, at the end of half term you will find every child is mentally exhausted. A school day is very taxing on the mind - just look at how tired your children are when they come home from school.

Perhaps more, but shorter fixed breaks that vary in start/finish date by each LEA would be the best solution. I.e Summer is four weeks and the two other weeks are used at another time; Vary start time wise - perhaps Shropshire starts it's summer hols in 3rd week of July whereas Chesire starts in 4th week of July?

wayne felton

any parent that takes there kids out of school should be fined £1000,i dont have kids but my taxes pay for there schooling so they should be made go ,or give me a big tax break because i have no kids

Mike

Who will look after you when you get sick and old? other peoples kids who grow up and train to do jobs that help society, having no kids is an option but you will need these kids in later life to run the services we have become reliant on.

Bella M

Our child has been taken out of school to go on holiday with us as a family in reception/Year 1 and Year 2. We NEVER took him out when tests or assessments were taking place and always used some of the school holidays so we limited the number of days he would be absent. This was always authorised. I personally don't think this has been a bad thing or a detriment to his school work. However, in his junior school (different to his infant school) we are now faced with the dilemma of unathorised leave as we have been advised that Telford and Wrekin are 'cracking down' and the school can't be seen to condone taking children out of school to go on holiday unless there are exceptional circumstances. If you could afford to privately educate your child they actually finish school earlier/later than the state schools and sometimes get more time at Easter so they can probably get cheaper holidays!!!!!

Tasha

What a load of rubbish! The school frowns on children going on holiday in term time but they are quite happy to shut early when there's an England match on the telly, which I've heard some are doing tomorrow.

Sounds like double standards to me.

ben sherman

Why don't the greedy travel agents drop the prices during school holidays instead of doubling or even more on some holidays, the government should step-in and fine the travel agents, have longer for xmas.

Or let your school decide the holidays, so we parents could afford a decent holiday (but dont tell the travel agents)

Or if parents just don't go abroad and then see the collapse of some greedy travel agents

John Smith

Ben

The cause is not the holiday companies - its the stupid authorities that decide every school in the country must take the same 5/6 weeks of holiday.

If more sensible arrangelents spread the holidays the need for holiday companies to charge top amounts in peak would disapear.

Complain to the cumprits, not the other victims!

stephan

The one thing nobody ever seems to consider when discusing this point of parents taking children on holiday during term time, is that not all parents are able to have time off to be able to go away during the school holidays. Many employers no longer have summer shut downs,and most others work on a first come first served basis for booking dates, with a maximum number of staff allowed off at any one time. I work in an area of work that is quiet for the first 2 to 2.5 weeks of the month, but incredibly busy the last 2 to 2.5 weeks. In a dept of 5 we can only cover 1 person being off at a time, with 3 of us having children. This means that the May and October half terms and 4 of the 6 weeks of summer holidays we are not allowed to take holidays. Children being taken out of school for holidays is not always just down to the cost effectiveness, it is very often down to when parents can actually get time off

pete

This whole issue is of the discreation of a headteacher , who must consider the attendance of the child , the schools curriculum at the time of request , the educational needs of the child aswell of the emotional needs of families . I believe there is a real conflict of interests which are fundamentally abused by the teachers unions when they decide to strike or fail to perform a duty (as with sats boycotts) which parents should have a right to redress with similar fixed penalty fines for children affected by such conduct. Isn't this only fair ?

John Smith

In my opinion this is wrong. A child should attend school unless there is a genuine reason such as on medical grounds.

Those that say they "Cannot afford to pay the hiked up prices for holidays if they go later/earlier" should go once every 2 years instead! My kids went to school, why shouldn't yours?

As for coming up with pathetic excuses like "They've learnt this and that" etc...They would learn at school too! (Only if they attend that is)

I believe It is wrong to put children in a position that ensures their education suffers for entertainment/relaxation purposes, that is what the designated holidays are for.

Jake

I don't remember being taken out of school for holidays, but then I also don't remember a holiday abroad being a basic right, it was a luxury afforded only by the lucky few. We went camping in Wales or Devon, like millions of other families, because that's what you did on an average budget.

You can't blame the travel companies for the price hikes, as price linked to supply and demand is one of the fundamental principles of free-market economics. If they can fill all the spaces at the higher price, then why should they charge less?

Observer

The only sensible way to approach this issue, which will not go away anytime soon, is to change the term timetable like our European neighbours and have 6 terms a year.

This will stop the annual 6/7 week Summer holiday for children, which quite frankly is too long, as well as forcing the travel industry to review pricing it would save parents childcare when they are at work over this period.

Simples.......!

Cariad

Well my husband & I took our son out of school for at least 2 weeks a year; not during any important tests etc but towards the end of the year.

We were always back for sports day as we assisted in the running of this event.

This we did from when he started school at 4 till when he left primary school at 11.

He won a scholarship & then spent 7 years in boarding school; during that time he was allowed the time off to go to the Le Mans 24hour with friends for which I was given special permission from the headmaster; as it was a special one off chance.

He has now spent 4 years at university & will be going back to get his degree next term.

I do not believe taking him out of school for holidays was detrimental to his education in fact we believe he learnt a lot in our travels.

Hopefully in time when he goes to the Le Mans 24hour he will be taking part as a team member.

We can understand it could be disruptive but we always asked for any work he would miss & early reading was continued even on holiday.

Angel

to Matt- don't be silly-teachers taking time off when they want- they know what they're signing up for when they take the job! Also many of us don't earn teachers' salaries to be able to go away in school holidays. Most workplaces don't 'shut down' like the schools and still have to offer a public service so holidays have to be spread out. If everyone where I work with families had to take time off in school holidays we could not offer a service- not possible in a private company!

Jason

I don't get it - so people complain when schools close half an hour because of the England game - we are worried about their education but it seems ok to send a child out of school for a week or two for a holiday. What about missing 2 weeks of education? Interesting!

Freudy

I'm not sure that all the views here are balanced. Some don't even have children so I fail to see how they can comment on a situation they have never had to endure!

I used to work for a holiday company and the margins that are made are trivial / person overall. Yes, more money is made in the peak seasons but over the year they are lucky to clear a fiver from each person (check it out before commenting please...).

It's a simple case of supply and demand. The demand for holidays in the school holidays is fantastic, therefore the prices go orbital. The demand during term time is reduced, so the holiday firms have to resort (no pun intended) to price matching/beating in order to maintain the cashflow.

I'm personally faced with a dilemma. Either I take my daughter out of school for 2 weeks before the Christmas break and pay X for the family trip, or do the same over the Christmas period and pay X+£1700. Now I'm not rich, well off or even very comfortable financially but we have not had the funds to take a holiday for almost 2 years now. We cant go away before those 2 weeks due to work commitments and feel that the run up to Christmas will be somewhat of fun-fair at school, and because of this feel that we should be entitled to take her out of school at the lowest possible impact to her education.

I want to spend some quality time with my family, and want to spend it in an environment that we all want to be in, not some caravan or tent (yes, we've done them both) on the east coast fighting the driving rain and paying inflated prices at some tacky amusement arcade filled 1960's hotspot.

My suggestion? Give the kids holidays that can be taken as we do employees. You have to request them, but can request them to occur when you need them. This will allow families to plan their holidays properly, allow the school some say in the timing of the holidays and spread the holiday season out to even the peaks and troughs of the holiday price.

Miok

I recall several times this winter,schools closing for snow falls that never even looked like they were going to happen.