Photo:// Tom Hodgkinson

The Worth of Term-Time Holidays

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Family holidays are expensive, that is undeniable. They are, however, a fantastic opportunity for children to learn about the world that exists outside of their town, and to engage with new cultures, climates, people and activities. BBC News reported an increase of approximately 16% in 2015-16 from the data for 2014-15 in the number of cases where pupils have missed one or more sessions of school for family holidays. This problem has become so widespread across Britain that the government implemented a fining scheme in 2013 to combat the problem. The ruling allows the council to fine a parent £60 per child if the school declares an unauthorised absence, which will double to £120 if not paid within 21 days. But to what extent does travel provide educational experiences that can’t be taught inside the classroom?

They are a way of exploring the world and refining key life skills that are simply not going to be learnt in a classroom on a Tuesday in September

Having been fortunate enough to go on family holidays all my life, I can attest to their healing nature. Professor Jaak Panksepp of Washington State University’s discovered that family holiday experiences ‘reduce stress and activate warm, generous feelings toward each other’, calling the neurochemicals released when we’re on holiday ‘nature’s gift to us’. The anticipation of a holiday is exciting and motivating as it is something to look forward to, and the holiday itself is quality time for the whole family. They are a way of exploring the world and refining key life skills that are simply not going to be learnt in a classroom on a Tuesday in September, the day you’ve missed and been fined for. I wouldn’t be as good a swimmer as I am if I hadn’t gone on family holidays, for example.

The experiences of holidays are too valuable to deny to young children, particularly if they are studying in a year where their education is formative rather than assessed and essential.

While holidays are just as educational and enlightening for children regardless of when they are taken, if the family can only afford to go on the trip during the school term, it seems silly to deny them that chance. My mum actively encouraged a mother of twins in her Year 5 class to take them out of school for a long weekend trip to Athens, because where better to get a history lesson than at a museum in Greece? The experiences of holidays are too valuable to deny to young children, particularly if they are studying in a year where their education is formative rather than assessed and essential.

I understand that taking days from school can be disruptive not only for the child but for the other children in the class. Catching up is a nightmare, and it’s incredibly hard on a teacher to expect them to teach the rest of the class and also help your child catch up on the side. It also doesn’t set a particularly good example for your children to openly flout the rules as it could give them a sense of entitlement that won’t bode well later in life when you simply can’t leave your job whenever you want. Then where does it stop – theme parks? Day trips? Family holidays are one thing, but if parents think absences are okay, will they remove their child from school to go to Legoland (having worked there, I can say this is actually very common) or go and visit Granny in Devon?

my cultural awareness on an international scale has benefitted immensely.

As a child who missed many days from school for family holidays, I can honestly say that my education was never negatively affected, and if anything my cultural awareness on an international scale has benefitted immensely. And with the ever-present potential for an increase in price of holidays (remember when David Cameron said Brexit could add £230 to the average price of a family holiday?), the number of school absences for travel is sure to rise as well.

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