So yesterday it was ruled by the highest court in all the land, that parents cannot take their kids out of school for term-time holidays without risking being fined.
Supreme Courst Justices have ruled against father, Jon Platt who had refused to pay a fine issued after he’d taken his six-year old daughter on holiday during term-time. This was after he won his case at both Magistrates and High Court after arguing that his daughter had attended school regularly and actually had a 95% attendance before the holiday. The seven-day period that she missed still didn’t put her over the threshold for a lack of regular attendance.
Essentially, this means that parents in England cannot take their children on term-time holidays without the risk of being fined £60.
I get all of this in theory. I understand that it is important for children to attend school ‘regularly’ (which always sounds like a weird choice of word to me), of course it is, especially as they get older. But I really don’t think it should be a big problem to miss a couple of weeks of school in an entire year if their family wants to go on holiday in term time.
Obviously you would hope people would be sensible and not take their children out of school right before any exams, but I do think we should decide what is best for our children in general. I read lots about the whole thing today, and the general consensus was that it is stupid that we can’t make the decision for ourselves and our families, and that missing a week or so of school isn’t such a bad thing in exchange for what a child would gain.
I did read a lot of people saying that they are our children and therefore it should be entirely up to us what we decide for them. Which I do kind of disagree with to a point – they are still a part of the education system in this country and there will always have to be rules and guidelines to follow within that.
But I don’t think a child who generally has a high attendance and isn’t studying for big exams shouldn’t be allowed time off for a wonderful family holiday without any repercussions for the parents.
Having said that, Ava has been off quite a bit this year as she has been poorly quite a bit during the winter, and I will still be taking her out of school for a holiday for four days in a couple of months. She has had an awful time at school over the last few months, and has been more upset than a 5 year old should have to be. We’ve had to almost drag her to school some days, and she has got so worked up about going that she has made herself sick outside the school gates twice.
So yes, I am very happy to take her out of school for a few days so that we can go on holiday with her cousin and aunty and uncle for her Grandma’s 60th birthday. She is incredibly excited, and has been for ages, and at times I have used that holiday to try and calm her down and distract her from the thought of having to go to school the next day. We’ve chatted about how much fun she will have with her little cousin; playing in the pool together and eating ice creams on the beach.
Yes, she will experience some of the culture, food, and people of another country, and just like we have before, we will encourage her to speak to the people there in their language sometimes, but honestly, I just want her to have a bloody good time with her family. To spend quality time with her parents and her wider family, leaving all of her worries behind for a couple of weeks. It would be different if she was thirteen, but she is five, for gods sake.
A holiday is a luxury
I have read today lots of people suggesting that a holiday is a luxury not a necessity, which is true of course. But so what? Travel is a wonderful thing in our lives, and I don’t want my daughter to wait to experience it until she has finished school when we could go now.
Another thing that lots of people have been saying is that it is all the holiday companies fault and that the government should stop them from putting prices so high during school holidays. But they are a business – they can charge more at peak times because people will pay and they are busier. Why would (and why should) they lower prices when they are booked up at the higher prices?! Especially as they are apparently often operating at a loss for the rest of the year, and they don’t actually put prices UP during the high demand times, but lower them at other times so that they are still getting custom. It doesn’t make sense to blame them entirely.
Attendance at school
This is all just one extra thing that has made me consider homeschooling again for a while. But then I think that that is a bit daft just over a holiday. But really it is the whole thing. The fact that school has made her so unhappy recently. The fact that because she has been off ill a few times, that now any absence going forward requires a doctors note or it will go down as unauthorised, even though I always send a note, and only keep her off when she is properly poorly. Now we’re also at a point where we could be fined if she is off school.
Last week she was off for two days with her ears again, she keeps going really deaf (she has glue ear so it’s nothing to worry about) and she was in a lot of pain with earache. I made a doctors appointment partly because I knew the school needed a doctor’s note and partly because I just wanted her ears to be checked again because she went so hard of hearing this time.
It’s never easy getting an appointment at our doctors – you generally can’t book one in advance, and you have to ring at either 8am to get one that morning or 2pm to get one for that afternoon, then you spend a while on the phone because you can’t get through, and then you probably won’t get one still unless you say it is an emergency, all whilst looking after your poorly child. I didn’t ring at 8am because my daughter was snuggled up in bed with me finally fast asleep after crying in pain during the night, and I didn’t want to disturb her. But I did manage to get an appointment (emergency, obvs) for that afternoon.
When the doctor heard we required a doctor’s note for school, she laughed and said they could have one if they paid £5 for each one. She also thought it was absolutely ridiculous that we were supposed to get an appointment with her every time she is off school, even if we know that there is nothing a doctor can do.
And I agree. We have to make an appointment with our doctor, within the already incredibly overstretched NHS, just so that our daughter’s absence can go down as authorised so that the school meets the targets it needs to and we don’t get fined or worse. I’m not blaming the school, it isn’t their fault. It just seems so ridiculous that it is this way, even for a five year old.
I have no idea what will happen when we take her out of school in a couple of months. I presume we will be fined, but as her attendance was already not great and below average maybe it could go further than that. We’d already booked the holiday when all this happened and I’m certainly not going to change it now. We all need that holiday together and we can’t wait for the break. Ava asks me constantly how long it is until we go, and I can’t wait to see her so happy getting to spend so much time with her cousin whom she adores.
Ava’s cousin who lives in New Zealand recently came over to England for the first time in her life to meet us all. She came over for three weeks and missed school for that amount of time. She is six. Her school in New Zealand had absolutely no problem with her going away for that amount of time for this amazing experience. She kept a journal and had a bit of work to do whilst she was away. Her school actually thought that the trip would be beneficial to her and that she would learn a lot from it.
She got to meet loads of her family that she had never met before and probably won’t see again for a long while, spend time with her two cousins, experience England and all of the differences to her home country, and visit the country where her Dad was born and grew up. That experience will have given her so much, and she had a brilliant time. She won’t have missed enough at school that she won’t be able to catch up with quickly, and she got to see some of the world. I think that is completely worth missing some of school at this age for, and I think it should ultimately be her parents decision whether she does that or not.
My daughter will be missing some more of school soon. I always put my daughter and her happiness first, and I will keep doing that for her, whilst also having her best interests at heart. I believe that her missing four whole days of school is worth it to enrich her life with this carefree holiday that she will love and that she totally deserves and needs.
What do you think about taking a holiday in term time? Do you think it’s fine, or do you think parents should just suck it up and take children away in the holidays at a much higher cost? Would you risk a fine to take your children on holiday?