School Holidays, Exams and Letting Kids be Kids

If you’re in the UK, chances are you’ve seen the news posts about the dad who essentially went to the High Court (the highest court in alllll the land) to challenge a fine for taking his daughter out of school for a holiday. Pretty much all of the (child-having) UK were awaiting the result of this case and – like me – were surprised and upset that he lost. The judge ruled that him taking his daughter out of school for a holiday was unlawful.

(Serious rambling ahead…)

A statement featured here says:

“Unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education on the individual child, but also on the work of other pupils, and their teachers.”

I’m not going to lie, this gave me quite a lot of rage. Why, as parents, do we not get to raise our children any more? Let me tell you about me and education.

I grew up on an army base in Germany – my dad was in the army. We had frequent holidays back home to the UK to see family. Some of these were in school time. It was perfectly normal for kids to take time out of school to visit with relatives or to have a holiday. It was just how it was. When we moved to England when I was ten, we were also taken out of school probably once a year for a holiday.

So, my case is a classic example of what not to do, according to the legislators of today. Except for not really. I have eleven GCSE’s, 5 A-Levels and a buttload of professional qualifications to boot. I could have gone to university – I had the grades for it – but I decided not to. My parents knew their children well enough to know that taking them out of school for X or Y period would not disrupt our learning that much.

Some of these holidays were awesome. I remember being taken out when I was probably

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Sisters. Spain. Should have been at school…

about seven and we came to stay with my grandparents in Yorkshire. I had homework to do from school which involved making some kind of travel brochure or something about St Lucia of all places. In order to do this, my aunt took me to the travel agent where we selected some brochures and spoke to staff about St Lucia. We then took them back to my grandparents’ house and read through it, selecting what we wanted and then we put together a brochure of our own. We went to Spain (again, during school time) for two weeks when I was probably eleven or twelve and had a great time. I learned to recognise Spanish money, to understand little bits of Spanish and we went to a Spanish theme park. The reason this  ruling makes me so angry is because we may not have had these experiences had we had to go during school holidays, because supply and demand means that prices are almost tripled in school holidays!

Children are like sponges, and I think the out of school activities are just as important as db02cc5d6170a475e5c8bd4f721f3d3f.jpgthe ones carried out in school. Learning how to swim in the sea, what the colours of the flags on the beach mean, how to recognise different money from different countries and how to order an ice cream in Italian are all part of life experience. Not to mention the importance of family time. When everyone is working and schooling, sometimes time as a family falls by the wayside, and I always enjoyed spending that uninterrupted family time. Even though Eden is only a year old I still look forward to that, because it is very rare that Amy, Eden and I are in the same place at the same time for longer than a couple of solid days.

In my humble opinion, a lot of what schools teach is just how to pass exams. How to get the numbers and how to get a grade on a piece of paper that will get you “ahead” in life. Whilst I agree that education is important, I also don’t think it is everything. Plus, you learn a lot of crap to pass those exams. I can tell you a fair bit about Russian history thanks to my A Level in History, but I haven’t used that information since passing the exam – except for maybe in a pub quiz or two. I had to prove for GCSE maths that I could correctly use Pythagoras’ Theorem, and work out complicated formulas. have I used those skills since? Nope. I had to learn about atoms, periodic tables and such to pass GCSE Chemistry, but again this is something that I have not needed to know since. Don’t even get me started on learning how to make a fricking vegan pizza in “food technology” or learning what makes up soil in Geography. A lot of schooling is just being able to regurgitate information on demand.

17498994_10158356970160580_1967691187541754186_nEven though Eden is only one, I can see what she takes on from the world around her. She learns from everything. We went to the zoo the other day and she had the BEST time! Although she cannot yet tell us what she is learning, you can see it. You can see her taking things in and recognising things next time we see them. We went to Disneyland when she was six months old and even that was an introduction to a different language, cultural differences and spending time with different people. At the zoo the other day, she went into the petting zoo and we met goats and sheep – animals that she has never met before. She was by far the best behaved child in there and was super gentle, and I know the reason for that was that we had taught her how to behave around animals. That’s thanks to having two dogs at home as well. We are going to Florida in December and I know she will learn things there. Not traditionally “educational” things, but she will be learning about the world and that stu1796512_10153815280395580_1242067228_nff is important.

I’ve worked as a London Tour Guide, a barista, a bar person, customer service at the London Eye, taken 999 emergency medical calls and now work admin for a busy NHS department. For most of these roles I have used things that I learnt in LIFE, not things that I learned in school. I’ve picked up a bunch of professional qualifications along the way and do count myself as an intelligent, well educated person. Nowadays, though, ,my parents would be penalised for taking me out of school because they were “affecting my learning”.

Some schools now will send you home for wearing the wrong colour socks. They’ll send you home because you’re being bullied so terribly that they’re not sure what to do with you. They will send a letter home because your parent gave you a chocolate bar with your lunch and they don’t allow that. It almost seems like once a child reaches school age, they are harshly policed and a lot of things aren’t up to their parents any more. I agree that good attendance is important, but I don’t agree with taking away choice.

It genuinely, honestly, makes me think about home schooling. I hate that education nowadays has become harsh. Has become about FIVE YEAR OLDS passing exams. Honestly, five year olds shouldn’t be sitting exams. Seven year olds shouldn’t be developing anxiety because of the pressure put on the school and therefore on them to get “good grades”. Don’t even get me started on sixteen year olds having breakdowns because of GCSEs. It’s too much pressure, it’s too much pushing and too much expectation. Most importantly, I feel like kids aren’t allowed to be kids any more. And parents aren’t allowed to make decisions for their kids.

The way I see it is, this is a case of the majority being punished for the actions of the minority. There are a minority of parents whose kids don’t attend school regularly. There are a minority of parents who pack mcdonalds for lunch every day. But I don’t understand why a school cannot take that up with those concerned, rather than blanket punishing everyone. If my child is doing good at school and is on target or ahead, the decision to take her out of school should be mine and Amy’s alone.

Holidays are important. Holidays are a mental health break, family time and time away. They’re time to regroup, get to know each other again and just have fun. For kids, it’s a time to just BE KIDS.

I’ll be interested to see how this pans out over the coming years. But, the stricter schools get, the more I float the idea of home schooling. I never want my daughter to consider her worth based on a number or a letter on a piece of paper. Life is so much more than grades.

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11 Responses to School Holidays, Exams and Letting Kids be Kids

  1. As a teacher my question is how long was the holiday and also how frequently is the child taken out of school. In the US schools if a student has a set number of unexcused absences they are held back. In my school I have so many children who are absent frequently and not due to illness. The large amount of absences do adversely affect their grades. Now I do agree the government has become more entrenched in our private lives. Parents should be allowed to parent their children unfortunately too frequently a few bad apples ruins it for everyone else.

    • That’s exactly how I feel. Often people take the mickey with it. I feel like there should Eva minimum attendance set.

      For example in the case that had been in the news, the girl had something like 100% attendance and the two week holiday took it down to 95%. Would of course be a different set of circumstances if she only had 50% attendance to begin with and I would of course support that school in penalising the parent.

      It’s so hard. I just want to parent my child responsibly, but I recognise that not everyone does. I hate blanket policies that punish all for the actions of a few, though.

      • Agree all should not be punished for a few. However 2 weeks is a lot of time out of school. I have a student who is failing because she missed 2 weeks of school.

      • I think it should be per child. It never affected me, but I realise that for some it could be catastrophic. This is partially why I think parents should have more of a say in conjunction with the school. If a parent pays attention to their child’s learning, they know whether taking them out would be appropriate. And of course there would have to be a measure of common sense.

        Example – the kid in the news was SEVEN. Might have been different if she was in the years leading up to GCSE. It’s not going to make that much difference to a seven year old and that’s why it makes me sad that common sense often doesn’t prevail

      • I hate to say it 2 weeks can make a significant difference at 7. I teach 6 and 7 year olds and I can see how if there are gaps in their learning it can hold them back. I have a first grader who can’t spell his name. I have a 7 year old who cannot write a single sentence. Two weeks at any stage can be harmful. I’m guessing there is more to this case then what the public knows.

      • Maybe, yeah. I just think there’s more can be done. A blanket ban and criminalising parents does not help. Talking and setting homework/responsibilities or discussing holidays at appropriate times would help.

        I just hate this “you’re wrong” type thing. Parents and teachers should take equal responsibility.

      • A blanket rule in this case does not always work. And yes parents and teachers share responsibility in the child’s education. But I truly believe there is more to this case and it is being used as a deterrent for the parents who don’t always have their child’s best interest at heart.

      • Maybe yeah. Something we will likely never know

  2. freebutfun says:

    In Finland yoy can take your child out of school but then parents are responsible for homeschooling during that time. According to a friend of mine, teacher, one week a year is fine, two weeks for most kids also, but any more than that and most parents dont follow up the teaching as well as they should.

  3. freebutfun says:

    I find it pretty reasonable too.

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