This week, the High Court ruled that a father didn’t have to pay a fine for taking his daughter out of school for a holiday. He won due to a technicality. The law as it stands says children must attend school “regularly”. The man argued that taking his daughter out of school for a week’s holiday, when she had otherwise attended school with few absences, did not constitute regular non-attendance. It’s hard to argue with that. Hopefully, the government will now change the law to put their guidance – that no holidays should be taken during term-time – on sounder legal footing.
Whether it’s legal or not, it’s hugely selfish and irresponsible for parents to take their children out of school just to go on holiday. Parents complain that it can cost “four times as much” to go on holiday out of term-time. If they can’t afford a particular holiday at that price, why not go for a holiday that costs a quarter as much? People seem to be under the impression that a holiday has to involve jetting off to a foreign country. When I was at school, still not that long ago, holidays were spent in a caravan at various places in the UK. And thinking back, we were the lucky ones. I suspect many of my peers didn’t go away at all, or if they did, few went abroad. When did an expensive foreign holiday become a necessity?
Proponents of term-time holidays try to claim that their holidays are educational, a worthy experience for the child, which will do them more good than the week of school they missed. The father in this week’s case took his child to Disney World. It doesn’t sound that educational to me, and I find it hard to believe the educational value was the reason for choosing that particular destination. Certainly, a small number of parents might wish to take their children on an educational trip – a visit to the First World War battlefields in northern France, for example – but the vast majority of holidays are not educational trips at all, and this is just an argument that campaigners have retro-fitted to their cause.
What sort of message does it send out to children if they are taught that it is OK to take time off school whenever it suits them? Apart from giving the impression that schoolwork isn’t important, they are likely to grow up thinking it is OK to pull a “sickie” when they don’t feel like going to work.
Finally, it is the height of naivety to think that if everyone with children could go on holiday whenever they wanted, prices would drop to the level that they are during term-time. Travel companies make their money from the school holidays, and lower the prices off-season. The prices would be equalised largely by increasing them all year round.
Thankfully, the majority of parents are still responsible, and would not take their children out of school even if it were not technically illegal. It doesn’t seem fair to allow the selfish minority to profit and enjoy cheap holidays, while responsible parents have to take more modest breaks.
The campaign to allow term-time holidays is about about one thing: parents who want to go on an exotic holiday, for their own benefit, for the lowest price possible. It is about people who fail to realise that their life changed when they chose to have children, and that they can no longer live in the same way as before. It has nothing to do with it being the only way for the family to be together, or a special, educational travel experience for their child. It is another example of how people fail to live within their means. Five days off school might not seem a lot (although the 90% target for attendance to be “regular” seems rather low – does missing 10% of lessons sounds OK?) It sends out completely the wrong message to kids that it is OK to not take education seriously, and to skive. Parents who put their holiday before a child’s education are selfish, and the sooner the law is tightened up to send an unambiguous message to them, the better.