Term-time holidays… the old chestnut is back

Of course we need a common sense approach to term-time holidays


Photo by Policy Exchange

The Local Government Association has called for a common sense approach to be applied to parents in England taking children out of school for holidays.

It was two years ago that Michael Gove introduced strict new rules on term-time holidays to crack down on absence. Generally, it is a good idea for a child to be in school. But sometimes, particularly at the end of term, there is a strong case to be made for a flexible approach.

In July 2014, when Michael Gove’s new rules were being hotly debated, I recorded my daughter’s weary account of her school day. She was in Year 8 at the time. The day I describe below, was the seventh to last day of the summer term, and it would appear that education had already taken a back seat.

Lesson 1: Geography
They watch Frozen, a Disney Animation. The title might sound like it’s about weather patterns, but it’s just about magic powers and cute songs. Apparently the film is on while the students cut stuff out for a display board.

Lesson 2: French
They watch Despicable Me. But, unbelievably, not in French. The teacher seems transfixed by the Minions, unlike my daughter, who is transfixed with boredom.

Lesson 3: English
They get their assessments back and then “chillax”. Well it’s been a tough day so far.

Lesson 4: ICT
They surf the net, on any site of their choice. One child teaches herself how to hypnotise.

Lesson 5: Science
They do some science. Hurrah.

How could parents on holiday with their children ever match that rich, educational experience?

My kids, who go to a good state school, live opposite kids who go to a private school. While my daughter was enduring the end of term boredom described above, the kids in private school had already been on summer holidays for a week. Our young neighbours are doing well in their studies. I’m sure they will do brilliantly at GCSE. The clear message from this juxtaposition, not lost on my children, is that it is quality not quantity which matters.

So I am all for a common sense approach. Schools need discretion to recognise when a child being out of school does more good than harm.