Tuesday, 21 January 2014

To Holiday Or Not To Holiday?

That most certainly is the question at the moment in a huge amount of households across the country.

Is it really the right decision, and has the government thought this through properly? 

The school holiday debacle is sweeping the country like a tsunami. The people for and against are welling up, ready to crash at any moment. Petitions are crawling the Internet weighed down with hundreds of thousands of parents and carers names, all burgeoning with pleas and howls of disdain at the government to revoke this 'policy'.

For those readers who are completely oblivious to our debate, here's a brief:

From September 2013 school aged children required authorisation from the head teacher of their school if they are to miss school time for anything other than illness/ medical appointments.
It was also decided that if the school saw fit, they could request the local authority fine the parents for taking the children out of school.
The fines have somewhat differred from £60 to £120, possibly more or less, but these are the main amounts that have been stated. The fines, however, are not only for the parent, they are for each parent and each child.
If the parents choose not to pay the fine, a court summons may be handed to them, obviously incurring further costs.
This is in an attempt to raise the attendance levels of children in their educational setting.
This was updated and added to Section 444 education act 1996.

The first court case has arrived, and the media have jumped on it, hauling the subject into everyone's consciousness once again.

Now, the government have kept their heads down with this, almost like a group of school children in an unattended classroom, blowing 'Sweaty Betty's' at the digital whiteboard. As soon as the teacher walks in and demands the identity of the culprit, fingers are pointed in every direction.

Let's take a look at different families and see how this stacks up:

Family A
Mother and Father both work full time, they have two school aged children. They can readily get time off as and when they need it and are financially able to take their children on decent holidays abroad during the school holidays. 

Family B
Single father works part time with one child. Unable to afford a holiday during school holidays but saves hard to have one week abroad during term time.

Family C
Father works part time, mother is disabled. They have three children. They save to go abroad for two weeks, one week term time, the next running into the school holidays, therefore minimising the childrens abscence.

Family D
Father works full time, mother works part time, three children. All three children have disabilities. Although financially, holidaying during school holidays is achievable, their childrens' disabilities do not allow. A quieter time is required.

Now, if you have a family akin to family A, then you're laughing. You have the world at your fingertips, and it's down to a matter of choice. 

Family B are not so lucky. The reason of why the father is single doesn't come into it. It has no relevance as to the matter of divorce or death, at the end of the day, he is single, he works all he can and he feels more than a little put out about this whole saga. He can't chance a fine, it takes all he has to save for flights, a decent place to stay and spending money to give his boy a good holiday.

Family C are having to take the chance. The father works part time so that he can help getting the kids sorted and to and from school. His wife is wheelchair bound and they struggle during school holiday time to get about with the wheelchair and also the huge matter in keeping an eye on the children is obviously easier during term time. However, they do take the holiday so that one of the weeks is latched onto a school holiday.

Family D can't do it. All children suffer from disorders which require a calmer environment. For the family to enjoy a week away, it has to be during term time. For them, there's no other option.

Now. Having looked at a variety of situations, and there are many more, I have a wider understanding of the predicament of the 'holiday saga'

Obviously, if school children are in an exam year, it would be sensible for the parents to ensure that their children attend school as much as they can. This surely is common sense.
However, if the children aren't in an exam year and have a good attendance record, then is there really a problem taking them out of school for a two week family holiday?

We have often seen 'family time' promoted by the media, asking us parents to take a break from the TV and gaming. Eat healthy, get fit. When I've been on holiday, what have I seen? 

I've seen families spending quality time together, I've seen huge smiles on faces. I've seen swimming competitions, volleyball on beaches, kids clubs marching around the complex, I've seen meal times with salads and while abroad, kids screwing their faces up as they sample the local delicacies. I've seen families dancing their hearts out at the evening discos, and children snuggled on their parents knees having fallen asleep. I've seen children making friends with children of other nationalities and learning the language, pledging to be best buddies forever and swapping addresses. I've seen healthy, sun kissed skin and parents without furrowed brows. I've seen happiness, family time and total togetherness. 

Is that a crime?

The crime is the government are trying to stop this. They are making these few precious days completely out of reach for so many families. That is the crime.

What should be looked into further is those parents who are not sending their children to school, allowing the children to abscond at any time, and simply not knowing where they are. 
What should be looked into is better maintenance of the school buildings and surrounding spaces to stop the inevitable closure due to bad weather, broken boilers and wind damage.
What should be looked into is the school fees ie outrageous school uniform charges, school meal prices, and fees for books, stationary and milk and snacks. 
What should be looked into further is perhaps allowing parents a maximum of two weeks out during term time, or simply (as was mentioned) reducing the 6weeks holiday to 4 and allowing parents (and teachers) to use the other two weeks elsewhere.

The most important part of life, (including a good education of course!) is the foundation of a solid family life. 

Why would the government want to stop our families coming together, enjoying life and making memories? And above all else, why penalise the parents for trying to achieve that. Why put the block on those families who can achieve that only during term time? 

Surely an agreement can be made...one that is reasonable for everyone.

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