Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
I can still vividly remember the adrenalin rush of my first flight. I recall the magic of my first visit to Paris and even the excitement of strolling Blackpool's Golden Mile. I grew up in the Fifties and Sixties and those holidays, modest by today's standards, fired my enthusiasm for travelling. I still love it; it is a passion and - more than that - it is my education.

Now schools are being told to clamp down on family holidays taken in term time. There are even suggestions that parents should be fined for taking their children out of school. I find this appalling.

The pressures of modern life mean that many children spend hours in childcare waiting for their parents to arrive. The school holidays are often no holiday for parents or children as both are forced to spend the time apart. The family holiday becomes an even more critical time for family bonding. And why should parents not take advantage of cheaper prices if they have the opportunity to do so? For some it is the only option they can afford.

It is arrogant of educationists to believe their input into a child's education, even for a short period of time, is so vital. I have been a teacher for 33 years and I cannot recall a time when two weeks in the classroom would have been more valuable than a fortnight on holiday.

Children on holiday can experience changes in culture, climate and currency. Travel is the best antidote for xenophobia and racism.

I know that many would argue that there isn't a great cultural difference between the Red Lions in Britain and the Red Lion in Torremolinos and there is little education in being thrown upside down on Space Mountain. But children on holiday are serving their travel apprenticeships. They are learning about airports and foreign languages; experiencing the procedures and customs of different countries will give them the confidence to explore on their own in later life.

Is there not also a double standard in operation? Many schools offer expensive term-time residential activities for their children. I have witnessed school parties playing rounders on the windswept beaches of North Yorkshire, seen them filling a lighthouse with multi-coloured sand on the Isle of Wight or standing by the sign for Llanfairporgwnth - boredoutoftheirbrains. Educational value zero.

Perhaps it's time for a compromise. Children should be given the opportunity to have 10 days' holiday every year on the condition that they produce a piece of work about their visit. As Francis Bacon, the famous lawyer and philosopher, appreciated almost 400 years ago: "Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience."

Steve Devrell works in a Solihull junior school

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