Getting away from it all…
Would you take your children out of school for a term-time holiday? It’s been debated endlessly in the press and in online parenting forums – the school rules which penalise parents for taking their children on holiday when the rest of the class are still at their desks. With more schools now issuing fines for ‘unauthorised absence,’ we at Space In Your Case wondered whether the knuckle-rap of a black mark would make you think twice about vacation over education. Or will you prioritise family time over class time?

Term-time holidays

What's your take on term-time holidays for families?

 Are children missing out?

New reasearch reveals that two in three parents say they would take their children on holiday during school term-time. Researchers found that 2,000 parents claim strict rules set by schools haven’t discouraged them from booking a trip outside the set term breaks. And over 35% said that the higher prices during the peak months mean they simply can’t afford a holiday at any other time. Almost half of them believed that taking a week of school wouldn’t affect their child’s learning.

We asked parents on Twitter what they do:
  • Sarah, from Hills and Daffodils, managed to get authorised absence for a week’s holiday, and pointed out that some schools are more flexible than others.
  • Tanya said she would do it if the trip didn’t interfere with SATs and other exams. She said “Experiences are an education.”
  • Some, like Melissa, believe that taking a couple of days to add on at the beginning or end of a school holiday shouldn’t be a problem, and her school have been supportive.
  • Others have taken much more substantial breaks in term time, for very specific reasons. Christina says she took her daughter away with no qualms: “My husband was overseas for her bday. She was crushed he was missing it so I took her on vacation that week.” She also planned a family holiday after an unsettling house move, when they had some much-needed family time to adjust.

If you do take your children out of school for a term-time holiday, will you be honest with your school? Other twitter users told me that they’d rather pretend their child was sick, than be honest and ask for a term-time holiday they know they’ll be refused – and be judged for it.

So just how do you pay it? Here’s what the Space In Your Case team had to say:

  • Alison says: It’s funny because before I had my daughter, I used to massively judge anyone who took their kids out of school for a holiday. “How can they put a holiday before their child’s education?” I’d think. But now I have a four year old who will be starting school soon, I have a different perspective. I still think, on the whole, that school education is more important than holiday fun. Of course it is. But I think that if a child is on track at school & it’s the end of term so lessons are winding down a bit, there’s no harm in taking them out of school for a few days. Obviously it’s about being sensible though. Taking an older child out of school when they’re studying for their exams is a bad idea. As is taking four holidays a year in term time. I think it’s all about bring sensible.
    And with prices of holidays being the way they are, some families literally can’t afford to go away during school holidays. At the end of the day, though, I don’t blame holiday companies for increasing the prices during holidays – it’s just simple supply and demand after all. So I think it’s up to us as parents to use our judgement on what’s right for our child and their education and what’s right for our family and our time together.”
  • Katie sees the value in experiences beyond the school classroom: This is something that has been in my thoughts a lot recently. We have been going through the school application process and will soon find out what school my daughter will go to in September. While I know she will thrive and enjoy school, it has got me thinking about the impact of school in their lives. It is one of the most important things in their young lives, of course it is, and like Alison I wouldn’t dream of taking an older child out of school during the critical exam studies. But while they are young, I am starting to think that the odd missed day here and there, isn’t such a bad thing. Life is for living, and surely you can offer a child so much more in the life experiences you would give them by taking them to a new place and having adventures? Plus having a look at the prices in school holidays, you can see why families feel like they have to do it every now and again- I think it’s a real shame that the prices fluctuate that much. Yes it’s peak time and companies need to make a profit, but it’s a tricky dilemma for parents. 
  • Penny, a former teacher, thinks schools are put in a difficult position: What I find hard is that schools are assessed on their attendance, which makes me feel (rightly) guilty that term time holidays could be affecting their reputation. When parents work with schools and there is open discussion, I think travel can be really beneficial, but I feel the new rules have closed the lines of dialogue somewhat.

What’s interesting is that the research found that only 16% of parents have changed their approach to term-time holidays since schools started issuing fines; most understand the importance of education, but describe the new fines as ‘a step too far.’ Travelling is as good as learning, according to 31% of mums and dads, who insisted that their children would still gain an education due to being on holiday. And 60% said going abroad in term-time instead boosts their family’s mood during winter, and prevents burn-out in their children.

So maybe it’s not as cut and dried as the time taken during the school term? Could schools (and government) take into consideration the nature of a break, and allow flexibility for a trip that will enhance a child’s life experience?

Tell us what you think. Have you ever taken your child out of school for a break, and if so, why? Maybe you’ve been fined by your school for taking term-time holidays? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

*The research was conducted by Holiday Hypermarket, a member of the  tourism business, TUI AG group.