I used to be indecisive…

…but now I'm not so sure

should you, or shouldn’t you, take your children out of school during term time?

14 Comments

On the news this morning was a report about a mother who has been fined for taking her child out of school, during term time, without permission.  She was getting married, in the Caribbean, and her son was going to be giving her away. She asked the school for permission for him to be absent a year before the date of the wedding, but it was not until a month before the occasion that she had a communication from the school to tell her that permission was denied.  She took him out of school anyway as all their plans had been made.   When she originally booked the wedding, she thought it was going to be during the school Easter break.  That seems quite harsh to me, especially as his attendance record had been good up until that point.

I was wondering what the general consensus of opinion is about taking children out of school during term time.  As a teacher, I probably should be against it, but I’m not generally.  Of course it depends on the circumstances – if it’s a regular thing for a family holiday, for example, then I’m not so keen. However, it could be that during term time is the only time that both parents can get away from work together.  Perhaps there has been a family emergency – that sort of thing cannot be planned to happen only during school holidays. Perhaps it’s for a special occasion of some kind –  then why not grant the time off?  The experience gained during the special occasion would probably outweigh the benefits of being at school for those few days.  Many families ask for work for the children to do while they are absent, so that they do not fall behind, so they are clearly thinking about the impact that missing school will have on them.  It’s the families who take their children out of school to go on a birthday shopping trip, or regularly take a Friday off so that they can have a long weekend, or to accompany mum to the hairdresser because she can’t be at school in time to pick them up at the end of the day that I have more of a problem with.

What do you think?

Little girl drawing with a blue pencil.

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14 thoughts on “should you, or shouldn’t you, take your children out of school during term time?

  1. Wow! Firstly I can’t believe that parents have to ask permission for a child to be absent. I’ve never heard of that before. I reckon that would go down like a lead balloon here in Australia. Secondly I’m a teacher too and I know what you mean about those regular non attenders who just stay away for no reason other than they want to. They are the children the schools need to be chasing up. Many years ago we took our daughters on a six week trip to UK to visit friends. The time they missed at school was more than compensated for by the amazing learning experiences they had and it fostered in both of them the desire to see more of the world. And I didn’t ask for work to take because I knew there wouldn’t be any time to do it. It sounds to me like the school principal who denied permission to that mother was just being hard to get on with.

    • Yes, for planned absences (holiday, wedding etc) permission should be sought. Head teachers can authorise up to 10 days out of school for these reasons, at their discretion. Apparently it is to try and cut down on truancy. Absence through illness is normally covered by an explanatory note or phonecall from the parent. I bet that six week trip to the UK was fantastic for your daughters.

      • Truancy is an issue here too, and parents can lose their governments benefits if their children are continually absent from school with no reason given. But parents here are able to notify a school that their children will be away for whatever reason, for example a holiday or family event, and then that’s it. Yes we all enjoyed our holiday to the UK and it was life changing for the girls.

  2. We travelled to Australia and travelled from UK with the boys taken out of school for the last couple of weeks of the Christmas term. School sent us with a request that the boys would give a little presentation when they came back to share their experiences – that worked well and they learned a great deal.

  3. Not sure what you mean by Term time. Here in the US, I don’t remember my parents asking to take me or my sisiter out of school, nor did we ever ask before taking our own children out of school. There are policies in place that limit the number of days a student can miss, but as long as the student is doing well, I don’t see the problem with taking days off, especailly for a special event.

    • Term time means the dates when the children should be at school. I’m not sure what you would call that – semester maybe? I think perhaps your policies that limit the number of days a student can miss are similar to what we have here, but I agree that for a special event there should be no problem.

  4. We have taken children out of school for holidays during term time many times, we try to be as good as possible by taking as few days as we need, maybe tag 3 extra days onto half term week etc. I’ve always felt that quality family time together is really important and although we try hard it doesn’t happen more than once a week at home due to the kids after school activities and sports.
    My boys (husband included) refuse to holiday in the summer break due to cricket committments, not something many teachers understand! However I have at least 1 child who hopes to make cricket his career and it is very important to us. None the less we have not been given the schools approval on every occasion!
    We usually ask for work to take with us, my son wrote a huge project on Kenya when we were there and he was only 7 years old.

  5. Clearly this is a case of enforcing rules just because they are there. I understand schools/councils doing what they can to increase attendance but surely they could apply a little common sense to distinguish between special occasions and routine absences for trivial reasons.
    I have once asked permission from schools to take my children out during term time for a holiday. I asked if they could miss the last few days of term when they would have been watching videos, tidying up or doing sports rather than their usual lessons so that they could join extended family on a trip to the US. One school said yes immediately, recognising the educational value of the trip. The other told me they had to refuse because it was school/council policy but they knew we would go anyway and hoped we would have a lovely time.
    A blanket policy forbidding absences – and imposing fines – is a nonsense.

    • I know that if schools have a high percentage of unauthorised absences it doesn’t look good with the authorities, but as usual there are people who don’t look at the bigger picture, and the individual case. I smiled to read that one of your children’s schools recognised the fact that you would take the days off anyway! That sounds like someone who thinks the rule is silly, but is going to have to follow it anyway.

  6. This is one of the many reasons I am thinking of home schooling, We are talking of moving from the UK to Australia and will be bringing the children back for a month every summer (June/July/August) to see the grandparents and for them to get to know England. This is not optional. Can you part-time school in Aus? I am more than capable of teaching them myself but one of the reasons for moving to Australia is so they can attend school as I will not put them into the education system here.

    • I’m afraid I have no idea about the possible part-time schooling arrangements in Australia – perhaps some of my Australian readers could be of help? If you were coming back to the UK every year for a month, and it partly coincided with a school break, then it might be a possibility?

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