This is a subject that’s become an increasing topic of debate recently – with schools clamping down on term-time holidays – and some high-profile legal challenges to the concept of schools fining parents for taking their children on holiday in term time.
With a family of four kids all at different points in the school system, including infants, juniors, GCSE stage and college, it’s something we often think about – as we’re dedicated to doing as much travelling as possible, which as you can imagine can get incredibly expensive with the school holiday premium rates.
In our opinion, there has to be a sensible balance between not disrupting the kids’ education, but still ensuring they can enjoy the kind of experiences that travelling abroad can bring.
This was highlighted to me on our recent trip to Mallorca, where, in order to get a realistic price, we had to take them out of school for a day either side of the Spring half-term.
– “We felt pretty guilty about going against the schools’ high attendance message”
They all have extremely high attendance rates normally so we felt, given the last day of term – especially for the younger ones – is often more fun and games than essential learning, that a couple of days out would do no harm.
In this case, we asked permission and the schools cleared it so we had no need to risk a fine, but we still felt pretty guilty about going against the schools’ high attendance message which they’ve really been driving home hard recently.
Emma (our youngest, aged 6) had been doing a ‘topic’ of “under the sea” and had been learning all about different sea creatures, bringing home drawings of sharks and telling us numerous facts about fish.
On the day we travelled to Mallorca, she was regaling us with facts about jellyfish she’d been learning – telling us all about how you can touch the top of them (apparently) without being stung, how they’re apparently “immortal” and various other facts about them (which I took her word for and am not putting my name to as verified true!).
– “I noticed Emma squealing with delight at the sight of these awesome creatures she’d been learning about in school, suddenly right in front of her eyes”
Any guilt we were feeling about them having two days out of school disappeared when we hired a boat in Port d’Andratx for the day.
On pulling the boat up to a harbour wall, as we climbed out we noticed we were surrounded by what turned out to be a great swarm of jellyfish.
After I got over the horror that I was considering jumping out and swimming here just a few minutes ago, I noticed Emma squealing with delight at the sight of all these awesome looking creatures that she’d been learning all about in books at school, suddenly there right in front of her eyes in real life.
Laying down on the harbour wall, with the crystal clear water allowing you to see all the way to the bottom, she could see at close range, just a few centimetres from her face, dozens of jellyfish in their natural environment, doing whatever it is jellyfish do in their daily lives.
She was excited and full of beans, spouting her facts and figures – and I think it’s an experience she’ll remember for much longer than the lessons she learned in the classroom.
Yes, we spent a fair amount of time on this holiday on the beach and messing around in the pool, which clearly had no educational benefit. But we were reminded how travelling abroad, visiting different countries – even if it’s just for a relaxing beach holiday – almost always involves new, educational experiences that children just wouldn’t have when at home and at school.
– “There has to be a balance… Children shouldn’t be deprived of these kinds of experiences because travelling is too expensive in the school holidays”
Whether it’s seeing new wildlife, hearing new languages or just doing stuff that’s new and exciting for children (and their parents), holidays and travelling abroad is often an educational experience in its own right, which children will learn from and remember much more clearly than theory they learn in their classrooms.
We believe there has to be a balance – and children shouldn’t be deprived of these kinds of experiences just because travelling is too expensive in the school holidays.
As long as attendance is high for the rest of the year and school absence doesn’t conflict with, say, the lead up to exams, shouldn’t parents be able to feel comfortable that travelling is teaching their children something equally valuable as the stuff they learn in school?
Personally, we choose only ever to do this for a few days at most – and only for the days at the very end of term when they’re winding down lessons anyway. For us, two weeks out in the middle of term would be too much.
But seeing your kids’ faces as they experience things and learn lessons about the real world and real life from travelling abroad makes the idea of a few days out of school here and there well worthwhile – and worth having to stump up the cost of a school fine if we have to.