Don't castigate Blair the parent;Letter

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
As a retired teacher and parent of "adult" children, I would like to plead for a more rational, tolerant approach to the problem of children being taken out of school during term-time.

I feel that as teachers we are becoming over-precious about our role as the guardians of the country's moral and educational well-being. I know that it can be frustrating as a teacher to have the same individual absent at the beginning, middle and end of each term, but does it really spell the end of their academic career?

We are becoming so rigid in our determination to put bums on seats that we are forgetting who and what we are dealing with -children and very fallible parents. In other words, individuals with needs beyond the classroom.

Some parents find it impossible to take their vacation during the summer break. Some might opt for the quieter times of the year simply to be free of the competitive life they normally lead.

We took our children to France for the whole of June from the age of four to 14. They lived on farms in remote villages. It was cheaper than living in this country and we wanted them to sample a different culture. The result is three very socially-skilled, well-founded human beings with a sense of culture and place which they have learnt through experience.

The most significant thing about our extended breaks, however, was that they allowed us time to be together as a family. In an age of split families and absentee dads or mums, isn't it crucial that we regard time together as essential for recuperating what we lose all year?

Tony Blair and Jack Straw - who have been criticised lately for allowing their children to miss the beginning of term - have been badly maligned for what is good parenting.

I'm not advocating that every parent should rush out and book a mid-January break but that headteachers and staff should consult more with parents and measure the short and long-term benefits of missing academic work. The new eight-week termtwo-week break seems an excellent way forward, although I can't see teachers letting go of their sacred summers.

Kate Axford 6 Rutland Close, Congleton Cheshire

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