River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Holidays in School Time

July 2016

I was very pleased to see Mr Platt win his case in the High Court over fines for taking his daughter out of school. It is very unfortunate that all children and their families are constrained to taking their holidays in that one six week period in the summer, apart from the resultant steep rises in the costs there are the consequences of overcrowded roads and/or airports and overcrowded resorts/campsites etc when they arrive. I think that the importance attached to school attendance is greatly exaggerated when it is claimed that even one day missed is critical and to lose a week is a disaster. They talk as though learning is a continuous process, presumably they think that they can teach a child how to do long division one day, for example (that is assuming that they do still teach long division?), and then say “Ok you know how to do that now, tomorrow I will show you how to convert decimals to fractions .” or something similar. Learning is an iterative or reiterative process, a child might be doing long division sums throughout a term before they are really confident and competent. There is evidence that children from a caring background who have missed a lot of schooling because of illness do not suffer a reduction in achievement as a consequence, certainly in my own case I lost best part of three years and it makes me cross when it is suggested that to lose a week can have a serious effect. Ultimately, of course, a child’s success at school is dependent to a great extent on the conditions and support at home. Fixed penalties for absences were introduced by the Labour government in 2003. At the time it was said that this was to counter persistent absences and problematic truancies, and that it would not be used for short absences. It was Michael Gove in 2013 who introduced the change using a statutory instrument that permits an alteration to legislation without parliamentary consideration provided it does not change the aim of the legislation, which in this case it clearly did. It should be a parent’s right to choose the type of education for their child and, indeed some parents have been permit ted to educate their children at home. It is strange that, on the one hand the government is willing to allow home education and to approve free schools able to decide their own curriculum etc with a head teacher with a very free hand, and on the other hand wants to control attendance at state schools and academies almost to the day. Holidays can be educational, the child will experience a different environment, meet different people, possibly a different culture, see different places giving a sense of geography and, perhaps, geology. If a teacher is really worried about something missed they could provide a work sheet. I am sure that a child that is progressing satisfactorily will not suffer one scrap if they miss a week or even two and, unfortunately, a child that is struggling will be struggling anyway. There is a problem however if it became acceptable for children to take a week or two out in May, June and early July, because there could be times then when 70% of the class was absent. There has been suggestions that school terms could be staggered in different areas, but one can see the difficulties that would arise with that if there were large differences, but even a one week difference would be helpful, that would extend the six week period to seven, possibly it could be stretched to eight. Ron Watts

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