Holidays can be harmful

21st June 1996 at 01:00
If the Secretary of State is serious about raising standards then there is a golden opportunity to do something simple and effective which will increase the amount of time some children spend at school.

They are the children whose parents take them on holiday in term time. There is no sign that the numbers are diminishing - indeed with more travel companies offering cheap holidays the opportunities are probably greater for parents to cash in. As teachers well know, the moment school holidays start, the prices rocket.

What about the effect on the children? It is not unusual to hear of some taking holidays twice or even three times in a year. Indeed I heard of a case recently where the combined holidays for the year were equivalent to the child missing half a term at school. If the same child had been ill the school might well have been involved in setting work or even getting dispensations from exams. Of course if so many missed days were the result of action by teachers there would be uproar.

There isn't a lot wrong with the old rule that allows a parent to take a child on holiday for a couple of weeks during term time, if that is due to unavoidable work commitments. But anything more than that is detrimental to a child's education and puts at risk the school's ability to deliver the requirements of the national curriculum.

Circumstances have changed and so should the law. Schools can attempt to enforce the present regulations but arguments with parents are inevitable and can seriously affect relations with teachers. We do actually need Government backing on this one - and it's not often schools say that at the moment.

Pat Dickens writes under a pseudonym

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