Travel Is Education

Master ATWWAH will be starting school in September and I’m already feeling a bit constrained with holiday plans.  We deliberately go on holiday during term time at the moment as it is usually cheaper and quieter.  When we were recently in Lanzarote the last couple of days of our holiday overlapped with the start of the school holidays and the hotel suddenly became a lot busier….and louder.

Holidaying during term time is no longer an option with the recent Department of Education rule with regards to fining parents for taking their children out of school for a holiday.  The maximum fine for doing this is now £60 per parent, per child, per day.  There has been so much debate about it with most parents feeling outraged about the fine and being treated like a criminal for doing something which frankly isn’t a crime.  Education experts on the other hand have said the government is right to do this as taking a child out of school especially during their early years can have a detrimental effect on their educational attainment.

As Master ATWWAH hasn’t started school yet I don’t really feel that I can comment on the education experts theories but I can look at my own experience from childhood and also just employ a bit of common sense.

Impact On Education

I don’t really buy the theory that a week away with your family during term time when you are in the infants or juniors will have a huge effect on your future educational achievements.  Surely if you liaise with the class teacher, who apart from a child’s parent is best placed to decide if it will have a detrimental effect, a week away should be fine.  If a class teacher is given enough notice they will be able to tell you what will be covered in the week you’re away and if necessary you could even take some work with you to do with your child or make it into a project for them to report back on.

If a child has high absenteeism already then fair enough, a discussion should take place with the teacher/headteacher but I imagine this is a rare occurrence.

It makes more sense to insist children don’t go away in term time when they are at secondary school as they are working towards qualifications but I’m not sure a fine is the answer.

It Feels A Bit Nanny State

It does feel a bit like parents are not trusted to make judgements affecting their child.  I don’t know any parents who would decide to jeopardise their child’s education so they can have a week in the sun and I find it really patronising that the government thinks people would do this enough to justify making it legislation.

Whilst researching this post I’ve tried to find some stats which show how many children had been taken out of school during term time to instigate the legislation but haven’t found anything.  It would be really interesting to see.  I did find something from ITV’s Daybreak earlier last year which said 71% of teachers didn’t agree with the fining system.

Interestingly I came across this great post from Gretta at Mum’s Do Travel who had done some digging to see if other countries imposed fines.  It seems it is not only the UK who are strict about these things, and in some countries you can face jail for taking your child out of school for a holiday.

The Economic Impact

Going away in the school holidays is almost always more expensive, be it in the UK or abroad.  I don’t blame the holiday companies/hoteliers/airlines etc for this, they are businesses.  I come from a leisure marketing background and I understand the pressures on seasonal businesses who need to use pricing strategies which are based on supply and demand.  Admittedly there are some companies who massively inflate their prices during the school holidays but the majority of people accept this.  There are even some companies out there who pride themselves on not charging extra for school holiday time, you just have to seek them out.

Pricing families out of going on holiday altogether as they can’t afford to go during the school holidays does feel a bit rough though.

Is A Holiday A Child’s Right?

I’ve read some articles and petitions saying this legislation will rob children of a holiday as their parents won’t be able to afford to go during the school holidays.  However, I do question that a child has a ‘right’ to go on holiday.  I know I didn’t go on holiday every year when I was a child, at home or abroad.  I went abroad twice with my family before I was 16 (both during term time) and other holidays were in places close by to our home in the north west, like Blackpool and Wales.  We certainly didn’t go every year either.  My parents worked hard but didn’t earn lots so we couldn’t afford to go away every year.  I don’t feel like I was robbed of a right though.

I feel lucky that we can take our kids on holiday to interesting places and regularly tell Master ATWWAH how lucky he is when we go on holiday and explain myself and his dad never went on holidays like he does and there are lots of children who don’t.

In the current economic climate the government need to concentrate more on children getting out of poverty rather than whether others are going on holiday during term time.

Travel Is Education

I do though, wholeheartedly believe, that travel is education.  It doesn’t matter where you are going, time away with the family is a luxury that it would be nice to think all families could experience.  I only have experience first hand of pre-schoolers but Master ATWWAH learns stuff every time we go away.  On recent trips it has included:

  • the basics of how a plane gets in the air courtesy of Mr ATWWAH and a lovely BA pilot who showed him the cockpit prior to take off once
  • all about volcanoes when we went to Lanzarote which I know he will cover again at school one day in Geography lessons
  • the engineering feat of constructing really high buildings in Dubai, he loved the Burj Khalifa, and looking at the model and videos as to how they made it
  • how to make sandcastles and why they are destroyed when the tide is in which feature on almost all of our holidays
  • all about tin mining in Cornwall, again something I’m sure he will cover again at school in the future

Looking out over Dubai from the Burj Khalifa


About to go down Geevor Tin Mine, Cornwall

But, it’s also about developmental learning’s too.  Almost every parent I know comments on how their children ‘comes on’ during the time they are away.  That can be from a baby saying their first word, a crawler suddenly taking their first step, a child’s vocabulary improving, the list goes on…..

Master ATWWAH has swimming lessons every week at home but when we are on holiday his swimming improves even more as we try to go in the pool at least once a day.  He is more comfortable playing in the water when we are on holiday too making him more confident.

in the pool

Happy pootling in the pool

Master ATWWAH also knows the world is a big place and there is more to see than just London, where we live.  If he overhears a news piece on TV or the radio with a country name we usually have to talk about where it is and he loves playing with Mr ATWWAH’s globe and asking where his finger is pointing to and have we been there.

The ironic thing is schools must think travel is education too.  There are lots of schools which organise holidays for their pupils. When I was in the junior school we had a week in Northumberland learning about Hadrian’s Wall, Grace Darling, Alnwick Castle and so on.  I can remember so much of it even now, learning outside the classroom makes an impression, especially if you’re away from home with your school friends for the week.

At my secondary school, a regular comprehensive in Oldham, we were taken on two adventure holidays, one in Dorset and one in France, taking part in activities we’d never have been able to do in our hometown – rock climbing, abseiling, canoeing, archery, eating frogs legs and so on.  It was a brilliant way to build confidence in a way a PE lesson would never do.  It taught us independence too, we were away from home, we learnt new things about the teachers who accompanied us and usually saw them in a different light, more human than just teachers.

These holidays were also during term time.  If you wanted to go you had to have your parents permission and a financial contribution was needed but more importantly the school had to approve you going too, so people with high absenteeism or who may put the school’s good name in jeopardy weren’t usually allowed to go.

There is no way that schools would arrange these holidays if they did not believe they were educational.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your views on it.  Would you risk the fine to take your child away during term time?   Do you agree with education experts that even missing one week of term at a relatively young age can hinder your child’s educational achievements later on?  What have your kids learnt on holiday?  Or, have you got any school holiday memories you’d like to share? 

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  1. I completely agree – I think it’s ridiculous to act as though a single day missed for a six-year-old is the same as a 15-year-old being away for a fortnight.

  2. I completely agree with this post and feel so frustrated with the school system at the moment. It is mad that I could be fined for taking my children out of school to see the actual real life pyramids in Egypt yet it is ok for school to take them to Disneyland? It just doesn’t make sense!

    Travel is indeed an education – even a trip to France/Spain exposes your children to other cultures, foods, languages, climates, architecture, religion…..and like you say holidays are fantastic for swimming too! I have made the decision to take my children out of school for a week next year and just pay the fine. It is either that or they don’t go abroad so it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make x

    • Thanks for your comments and giving some insight into why parents often take their kids out of school during term time. I love the comment about going to Disneyland with the school too. Although I wouldn’t have minded going to that school 🙂

  3. I think fining us is wrong. Personally, my daughter learns so much whenever we go away, both educationally and on a more developmental level. I agree with so much of your post.
    When I was young, we went away for the summer, it was cheaper than finding 6 weeks of play schemes! We usually came back a few days after the start of term, or left a few days earlier as it was more affordable. I don’t think my education suffered because of it.

    • Thanks for the comment and exactly, children learn so much when they are away, you don’t just learn in classrooms.

  4. It may soften the blow to know that the fine isn’t enforceable until the term after your sons 5th birthday. You could have another year where the school can’t stop you taking him out.
    You may well get a sharp letter from the school, but as long as you know this…
    Chances are, the Head teacher would completely agree with you, but they aren’t allowed to set their own policy on the matter.

  5. I think that the current rules should be scrapped and that we should go back to how things used to be. When my 16 year-old daughter started school you could take kids out of school as long as you got permission from the Headteacher first. That system worked perfectly well because Headteachers used their judgement and knowledge of the child and family to see whether it was appropriate to give their permission.

  6. I think this is really tricky – for all the reasons you explain – and I really don’t like the idea that the current situation actually pits parents against school. However, there is a lot of research which suggests that it’s really disruptive to schools if kids go away in term-time. You have to remember that it’s not just your family that has to be considered, but often 30 in a class, so that means different children would keep missing different bits if they could go away whenever they wanted to. Similarly the research suggests that if you miss something crucial, it’s hard to catch up (and that can even be something when the children are small). Mind you, what does irritate me is when children watch DVDs or basically do nothing at the end of terms and parents get into trouble for taking them away. That’s really frustrating…..

    • Thanks for your comment Sarah, and it’s good to hear from someone whose kids are older and has much more experience with the school system etc.

      Watch DVD’s and do nothing at the end of term? Outrageous. It definitely didn’t happen in my day, I think we had one day at the end of term when we could bring board games in 🙂

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