Lots of parents do it, but is taking your children out of school for a cheaper family holiday ever acceptable, asks Lorenza Bacino?
Barbados at £6000 for a family of four or Barbados at £2000 for a family of four, but departing just three days earlier – what would you choose?
Well, it seems like a no-brainer doesn’t it? But when you’re confined to going away during the school holidays, the issue of children missing school can be a real dilemma for many families.
It’s very tempting to be able to save up to 70 per cent on hefty holiday costs, but what do head teachers think……?
One headteacher of a primary school in Barnet says he’s not necessarily against children skipping school for a family holiday, but he makes decisions based on the age of the child and how they are doing in school. This, of course, can lead to some parents getting annoyed when their holiday request is rejected yet another family’s is accepted in the same week.
Mum of four, Belinda says taking her children aged between four and 12 out of school is the only way she can afford a family holiday. ‘Last year we went to Italy and took three days off school which saved over £1,000.’ But when Joanne took her four and six-year-old sons with her on a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to Florida, she says she felt very bad after returning home to a warning letter from the head regarding ‘unauthorized absence’. So just what are the rules when it comes to taking your kids out of school?
Government guidelines much as you’d expect, are very much against taking children out of school during term time and head teachers do have the power to authorise up to ten days absence a year, and more, in ‘exceptional’ circumstances. If you don’t get permission, or are refused and go anyway, schools can issue ‘fixed penalty’ fines as, effectively, you’re allowing your kids to ‘truant’ from school. But as travel expert Peter White says, ‘a fine of between £50 and £100 isn’t much of a deterrent when parents can save thousands of pounds by taking a holiday during term time’. But aside from the positive effects on our bank accounts and ‘savings’ to be made; what effect does time out really have on your child’ education?
Primary school teacher Lynne says that before the GSCE years it’s fine for children to take time out. ‘It can be a culturally enriching experience in many ways and something many kids wouldn’t get to see otherwise, so I’m all for it. When they’re older though, exams are important and so skipping school takes on more serious dimensions and I would urge parents to think twice about it.
’ As a mum who has taken her kids out of school for an extended period to go abroad for my husband’s work, I have to say that the experience is something that will stay with us as a family for a very long time. Of course, I spoke to the school about it first and made sure we got approval and a workbook from the teacher to do when we were away, but because Nepal is so very different from a first world country, what the children learned about living in a third world country was invaluable and I hope they never forget it. I don’t regret it for one minute.