Holidays in term time are here to stay

13th June 2008 at 01:00
It's a dilemma
It's a dilemma. As a parent governor, I realise I should set a good example and not take my children out of school in term time. And I agree that when children reach secondary school and exam time, parents should do their utmost to stick to school holiday times for family breaks.

But when it comes to my primary-age children, I have trouble obeying the rules. Most years our holidays have been in school holiday times, but the memory of an Easter week in an expensive caravan in very wet, cold west Wales still lingers, and my family holidays are more precious and important to me than the rules. I know I'm far from a good example.

The last lot of press coverage on the subject in Wales seemed to suggest a less tolerant wind was blowing in regard to absences during term time. We have been told that the Assembly government guidance of 10 discretionary days is not a parental right, and some schools may impose a ban on taking children out of school.

Most parents I know try to take a few days before or after school holidays, rather than whole weeks, to try to beat the extortionate rises in holiday costs. Press coverage talks of parents having cheap or cut-price holidays, but there's nothing cheap or cut-price about any of it.

This year, the "good deals" I have been quoted for a family of four for 10 nights, half board from July 16, include Ibiza at pound;2,608 and Cyprus at pound;2,400.

The same holiday for Cyprus from July 28 was pound;4,999. The hotels were far from luxurious and there was not a sniff of free child places. I do feel bad, but not bad enough to pay an extra pound;1,500-plus to spend a week abroad in August temperatures, which are too hot.

Parents taking children out of school for family holidays will continue. The number of split families is apparently also having an impact, with parents taking their children out of school in term time because pupils tend to spend their school holidays with the parent who has custody.

A family holiday can be just as valuable a learning experience as time spent in the classroom. As well as broadening horizons, it is the stuff that childhood is made of.

Take, for example, the Welsh primary pupil who visited relatives in Italy during term time. She was met by a cousin of the same age whose teacher had told him not to come to school as it was more important to spend time with the family or friends from abroad.

Where in Italy did this supporter of "global learning" teach? At Reggio, an exemplar of the foundation phase.

The problem is not going to go away, so perhaps a more sensible approach would be to incorporate a holiday during term time into schoolwork.

What about developing standard tasks for different key stages? For example, a pupil could be tasked with keeping a diary, reporting back on a tradition of the country visited, or finding out the equivalent words for colours or numbers.

We teach citizenship, and this could be part of the deal if parents want to apply for any of the 10 discretionary days.

Press reports have quoted headteachers who say parents don't care about taking their children out of school. I think they do - it's just that they also care about having some quality time with them outside of the home environment.

The problem is being able to afford it. The situation is not black and white, and a bit of balance is needed.

Rhiannon Jenkins is a pseudonym.

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