Last week, pretty much every newspaper, news channel, parenting blog and the like covered the landmark ruling, pretty much allowing parents to take their kids out of school for holidays during term time.
Whilst I agree with the argument that it should be a parent’s decision to take their child out if they have been attending school ‘regularly’, I can’t help but think this is just one big first world problem. I come from a country where hundreds of people are desperate to get an education. Children get excited about the idea of going to school and learning. Parents send their children hundreds of miles away, to stay with family or even boarding school, to give them the opportunity of an education.
Yet, here we are, complaining because we want to save a few hundred pounds on an all inclusive to Mallorca. Is this really a case worthy of the High Court? Is our world so perfect that this is the issue we have to protest?
Now, I get that people want to go on family holidays, but don’t use the excuse of ‘family bonding’ to justify it. We rarely went abroad as a child. We visited parks, museums, played games etc and guess what, I’m still very close to my mother. Isn’t it a little bit insulting to poorer families by saying you can only bond with your children when you’re abroad?
Then people argue that they children can ‘learn so much more’ on holiday’. Let’s be honest, you and I both know that most family holidays are an excuse to have lie ins, lay about in the sun, eat as much as you want and crack open the sangria at midday without being judged. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, it’s a great way to live for a week or two. But let’s not use education as a cover up for our need to just get away.
My worry with this whole argument isn’t about whether children should be permitted to take time out of school (although the 13 weeks they already get seems like plenty) or what they do when they are away. It is really about the example we are setting for children. We spend so much time teaching them about following rules and listening to their teachers, but now we are saying ‘follow the rules unless it is more convenient not to.’ I’m not saying children should become sheep and blindly abide by rules regardless. But shouldn’t they be encouraged to question, challenge and debate, instead of just ignoring the rules that don’t suit them?
The parents that have taken their children on term time holidays have done so in full knowledge that their school rules didn’t allow it and they would be fined. But they still went ahead. Why? Because it was convenient, in most cases financially. How can you distinguish this rule breaking from others, when talking to a 7 year old. I know I couldn’t!
I know I sound old now, but many young people are growing up with a sense of ‘entitlement’. They want what they want, when they want. We see too many cases of disregard for others, purely for their own benefit. Is this something else that we are just handing to them?
If you can’t afford something, don’t buy it. Sure you can complain about holiday companies, but is it really their issue? Plenty of products get cheaper when they are out of season. And what about the families that still wouldn’t be able to afford a holiday even if there was some price capping?
All that will happen now is we’ll see in an influx of parents taking their children on holiday during term time, causing more frustration for teachers and the pupils left behind. During this time, the government will be looking at ways to tighten up the rules and make it more difficult to take any time off at all, during term, regardless of the reason.
So whilst I might praise this ‘hero dad’ for sticking by his guns, I have a horrible feeling it might not be the happy ending we all hoped for.