Travel

Would You Take Your Kids Out Of School For A Holiday?

September 13, 2016
Elfie is 6

This summer I made the decision to take my children out of school for a holiday. It wasn’t a decision I came to lightly; as a rule-follower it felt pretty unnatural to inform the school I’d be committing the cardinal sin of unauthorised absence. But I did it in the knowledge that the benefits of our trip would outweigh the week they took off from education.

As a priority I made sure our holiday was as educational as it was fun. The children learned how to sail, how to windsurf and gained bagfuls of confidence in their swimming. We met people of all different kinds of nationalities – Greek, Dutch, German – and I made sure we learned some Greek words, tried a range of Greek food and talked about how Euros were different to Pounds.

The children had 6 days out and, I’m guessing because their attendance is otherwise high, I wasn’t fined. But I did worry about it.

single parent mark warner holiday

As a single parent – or any parent – it’s difficult to ignore the crazy inflation in price of holidays taken outside of term time. According to research by FairFX, some family package holidays rise in price by a whopping 115% during the summer break. And if you’re looking at a £3,000 holiday verses a £6,000 holiday… it’s a no-brainer. I’d find it very hard to pay out an extra 3 grand, just for the sake of the children not missing a few days of lessons.

However, I do understand some of the school’s protestations over term-time holiday absence. It becomes tricky for the teachers to catch children up if class members are away for weeks on end at different times of the year, and as kids get older it becomes more and more important they are present so they don’t miss large parts of the curriculum.

But for me? I took a week off school in favour of DisneyWorld Florida when I was 14 and still turned out (just about) alright. My two will have a week off for a Ski trip come January and, although I’ll still feel guilty about that unauthorised absence, the benefits will outweigh the guilt.

What would you do?

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25 Comments

  • Reply Sam September 13, 2016 at 11:22 am

    We took Eloise out of school for three days in Year 1 so we could all go on the Queen Mary 2 to celebrate Rachel’s mum’s 60th. It did feel like a once in a life-time thing and so we didn’t feel too bad about it. We also took her out for a day when last November me and Rachel both wanted to attend an event on a Friday in London and the girls needed to be looked after by grandparents. We’ve never done a full week though and I do get pangs of guilt thinking about doing that. As we weigh up doing Disney in the US with the girls in the next year or so though, it may become tempting—especially if the pound doesn’t recover against the dollar (bloody brexit). I do have mixed feelings though. I want my girls to have some amazing travel experiences (which I very much consider educational) but I’m aware of the challenges absence can mean for schools. At the end of the day a week in a year probably isn’t going to ruin by child’s future nor mean the school can’t function.

    • Reply alice September 13, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Ooh the QM2 – I bet that was brilliant!

      I think I would definitely do the same for Disney, I think travel is so enriching. I wonder what the cut-off point is though? GCSE year? Hmmm…

      • Reply EB September 15, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        Personally, I wouldn’t do it in Years 10 and 11 but other than that, you are right – one week out of a whole year of otherwise amazing attendance probably wouldn’t be the end of the world. It’s not ideal and I would only do it if the trip really couldn’t take place during holiday time.

  • Reply Molly September 13, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Being the daughter of two teachers I never missed any schooling for a holiday, but that was largely because it was never an option. And now I’m married to a teacher it’s still not an option! I agree that a holiday can be just as beneficial for kids when they’re a certain age as the things they learn at school – and it’s why we’re so keen to pack as many adventures into our school holiday time as possible. It’s pretty unfair that so many families get penalised by the high costs of holidays during school holiday periods and it means lots of kids miss out on these essential life experiences when they’re little. I’m kind of on the fence I guess. Last year F had two (authorised) days off for a mini family break with her aunt before she moved to Australia. I’m not sure I’d have taken her out for longer than that simply because she thrives on routine and I think the back to school transition would have been pretty awful. Not to mention my husband would probaby be dead set against her missing any more. We’re such boring rule followers!

    • Reply alice September 13, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      I have to say I feel guilt for the fact teachers are tied so tightly to holidays outside of termtime. I wonder how it’ll be now H is at school – Elfie is such a natural learner that time away from lessons doesn’t affect her at all but I think it might more with him!

  • Reply Chloe (Sorry About The Mess) September 13, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    Until recently I hadn’t have thought I would, because I didn’t want to face the wrath of the school, and because I thought not many people did it. But the other day I caught a glance of the absence book whilst I was in the school office, and judging by the amount of children who still hadn’t started back at school in the second week of the Autumn term because they were still on holiday or visiting relatives, I think I’d be in good company! We have a few far flung places on our travel wishlist, and I wouldn’t want to drop all that money on flights just to go for a week or two, so I think the time will come when we decide to to a ‘big’ trip and it cuts into term time one way or another. I think it’s so silly. I get that kids should be in school and continuous absence shouldn’t be encouraged. But one holiday a year that will provide a valuable life experience? Just crazy that it’s not allowed.

    • Reply alice September 13, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      It still makes me laugh that one day I clocked the school’s late book and one excuse was “we slowed down to observe funghi growing on the route to school”. Brilliant.

      I was surprised by the children not back at school for the first week, too… but yep, I don’t like facing the wrath of the school. I can understand they got a bit shirty with me for taking the kids to Greece for a week this year but one mum got married on a Friday recently and was told that would still go down on their kids’ records as unauthorised. Really unfair.

  • Reply Catherine @pushingthemoon September 13, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    We took our son out of school for the last three days of term to go to centerparcs. My husband couldn’t get any time off work during the school holidays so this was our only chance for a holiday – an affordable holiday at that. If we had gone the following week the cost would have increased by £600. It was a no brainer for us, and as he only missed three days it wasn’t marked as unauthorised. He was in his reception year at the time.

    Would I do it again? If I was confident that we wouldn’t be fined then yes.

    • Reply alice September 13, 2016 at 11:49 pm

      It still baffles me how expensive Center Parcs is! We’re so lucky to have one close by – if we want to go on a friday it’s 30 mins from school so we just book long weekends rather than a week. SO MUCH FUN there though :)

  • Reply caroline September 13, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    I’d do it in a heartbeat. Hasn’t a case recently been won against the fine? They’d have another case on their hands if they tried to fine me! Sorry – but a week even two weeks makes crap all difference. You could even find out what they’d be missing ahead of time and cover it on holiday (if you felt like it!)

    [And I come from a family of teachers. ;)

    • Reply alice September 14, 2016 at 12:05 am

      I made the decision that I’d be the same if they tried to come at me with a fine! Ridiculous rules, ridiculous Government targets. And great to hear the same from someone who knows teachers!

  • Reply K September 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    My parents took me out of school every year, sometimes twice, throughout my primary years. I’m now a teacher (ironically!) and genuinely think that the experience of travelling is equally as important as the school curriculum. I take every opportunity I can to travel now and that love is all down to the experiences I had as a child… I just wish I could take some unauthorised leave & save some pennies!!

  • Reply Sam | North East Family Fun September 13, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    I did the exact same thing and took my children out of school for 6 days at the end of June. I honestly think it’s fine – children are educated beyond school :D

  • Reply Hannah Richards September 14, 2016 at 10:47 am

    We’re really lucky in that our local school have put all the training days together to form a week during term time. – Excellent news for parents like myself to get a cheaper holiday without breaking the rules or risking fines. It’s a shame more schools don’t take this approach – even the teachers say they prefer it as they get to train more extensively in one go.

    • Reply alice September 14, 2016 at 11:54 am

      This is such a sensible approach, Hannah – seems like a really good solution to the whole issue!

  • Reply Kathryn September 14, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Well considering we’re taking all 3 out of school in a fortnight to go to Greece for a holiday, I think you know my answer. I hardly ever do this (the last time was a few years ago to spend Christmas in NZ with Greig’s parents and they only missed the two last days of term).

    This time it’s a now or never holiday with my parents who are both quite unwell and won’t be able to go abroad anymore so they wanted one last swan song with the children. I expect the kids will spend most of the time in the pool, which is great because the girls are still learning to swim, and I’m hoping to introduce them to some greek food and culture. Moreover they’ll have some irreplaceable memories with their grandparents (and you never know how many chances you’ll get to do that).

    I don’t feel guilty at all – my kids had 100% attendance record last year so….

    K xx

    • Reply alice September 17, 2016 at 11:12 am

      I would absolutely do the same thing Kat xx

  • Reply Fritha September 14, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    I feel like travel is one of the best forms of education. Imagine how much they pick up on a trip (especially to another country) like you said, a different language for a start! Even something like traveling on different transport or having quality time together is so beneficial! x

    • Reply alice September 19, 2016 at 12:42 am

      I think so true Fritha – you can’t teach the things you learn in a different country x

  • Reply Debbie | An Organised Mess September 14, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    It’s so difficult, one of the reasons our school was from a Estyn (Ofsted) outstanding to good was because of levels of absence- parents want the great schools but also want to compromise the ratings by which they chose the schools, you might say.
    But that said, it shouldn’t all be about ratings.
    I love my children’s school because they love it, they have never not wanted to go to school (unlike me a child) and that feels the most important thing.
    I’m completely with you on experience and assessing benefits- including cost. Lots of teacher friends say think about after May for taking them out, as most of the year’s learning is done by then.
    I think we will at some point take them out of school for a holiday, based on affordability, although affording holidays at any time is our sticking point :)

    • Reply alice September 21, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      That’s one of the things I think annoys me – it all comes down to numbers and stats with no flexibility or wiggle room. It’s shades of black and white, there’s no grey.
      (Though saying that my two have an impeccable attendance record which I think is why we weren’t warned or fined :)

      I will definitely stick to post-May holidays!

  • Reply Slummy single mummy September 15, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    Yes is the simple answer! Now that Belle is in Year 10 I might think twice, but I’ve never been one of those parents what strict about it, especially when they are young. What are they going to miss exactly?! When I was at secondary school, I had a few health problems, plus an odd mother who liked to keep me home for company, and my attendance averaged 80-90% over any one year, but I STILL got the best GCSE results in my year. (Pissed my teachers off no end, who always used to say my absence would effect my grades…)

    • Reply alice September 21, 2016 at 11:52 pm

      Hahah love your own personal experience; Jo, you were a legend before, now I even think you are even more so.

  • Reply Nell (the Pigeon Pair and Me) September 16, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Ooh it’s a tricky one! I’m generally a rule-follower too, but when they’re very little, common sense tells me that they’ll learn more from being away than in the classroom. My son’s just started year two now though, so it’ll be more of a dilemma. Plus I think it can be unsettling for a child if they miss a week or so too close to the start of the school year – I’m very aware of that with my daughter, who’s just started reception.

    • Reply alice September 21, 2016 at 11:54 pm

      I’m so aware of that, too – they often do lots of fun things at the beginning and ends of the school terms and I never want to take them away for those!

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