Archive for August 2013

Pathways-ED: Celebrating our NZC

 

written by Marilyn Gwilliam, Principal Papatoetoe Central School

“Help”, I said to our team at school last week.   “This month’s blog is due and I need your help!  What shall I write about?”  I said that I felt like celebrating, that I wanted to focus on the super things in our schools and as I anticipated (and hoped), their responses indeed came racing back across cyberspace.  They were mostly about our very special NZC.

A number of teachers lamented the fact that the NZC has gone off the radar somewhat.  They want to see it back, sitting right at the forefront of our work in schools.  I think I can hear widespread agreement out there. 

In 2007 we celebrated the NZC’s vision, principles, values and key competencies like never before and we had the time of our lives.  In the NZC we had something that we could really work with in our own communities.  Between 2007 and 2009, we saw possibly the most exciting and ‘go forward’ time in recent NZ educational history.  As one teacher commented, “the walls are literally coming down”, and our approaches have become more flexible, personalised and diverse.

Another teacher said that the NZC provides us with the opportunity to create all rounders and not book worms.  I thought this was a great way of looking at the breadth of our curriculum and the NZ approach to teaching and learning.  Many spoke about child centred learning, authentic learning, and the key competencies in the NZC.

I believe that NZ teachers have really embraced the key competencies and they derive huge professional satisfaction from actively teaching them.  There are many examples in our schools of students self managing, thinking creatively, participating and contributing in a variety of ways.  We only need to attend a school assembly to see our students confidently running the show to appreciate the value of a curriculum that encourages confident and actively involved young people.

In our primary schools one of the key social developmental tasks relates to friendships.  Quite often young children need help with making, being and keeping a friend and teachers do terrific work supporting them with developing their friendships.  Given the sometimes treacherous social media environment these days, support with maintaining friendships has become increasingly important and friendship seems to have a whole new meaning.

Reference was made to the variety of learning experiences that the NZC promotes, underpinned by 8 foundation principles.  Teachers can plan authentic experiences for their students located in their own diverse contexts and in acknowledgement of their cultural capital.  Our teachers spoke about students exploring for themselves and being able to talk about their own learning and what they need to do next to make progress. 

Many really appreciate the focus in the NZC on tailoring learning experiences to suit their students.  They maximise access to outdoor educational opportunities like local pools, marae, botanical gardens, museums and other learning contexts.  For many students, the first time they catch a train or a ferry provides the ultimate excitement!  It is very special to see parents, caregivers and increasingly grandparents on these trips and the connectedness that is tangible between a school and its community when they all set out on a day’s expedition together.

While the eight learning areas in the NZC are presented as distinct, we were encouraged in our own curriculum design, to make use of the natural connections that exist between them and many schools have developed their inquiry learning programmes around this premise.   The curriculum statements, we were told, should be the starting point for developing programmes of learning suited to students’ needs and interests.

So let’s resurrect the NZC.  Let’s be proud of what we do.  Let’s speak up about our successes, celebrate our diversity, and treasure the philosophy of our special curriculum.  Let’s re-visit with our teachers and our community its values and principles, review our approaches to the learning areas, and share our insights in relation to their impact on our students’ learning.

Let’s hear it for the NZC!

 

Talk-ED: Another Flipping Change? The Flipped Classroom

 

It has become something of a movement lately with enthusiastic claims being made for the difference it made to engagement and success of students in classrooms and educational institutions at all levels.

It is The Flipped Classroom.  Well, one flips pancakes, how can one flip a classroom?  In much the same, turn it over so that what once was done in the classroom happens at home and what students did at home (or rather often didn’t do) is done at school, in the lecture hall, with the teacher / instructor.

Or put another way, the work at home becomes outside-in where the material to be learned, the essential content of a subject is delivered through a video clip accessed through the internet.  Typically the teacher / lecturer will deliver three of these each week and they can be supplemented from, for instance, the 2,500 “lectures” in the Khan Academy.  The lessons are streamed and picked up by students at home or where students don’t have internet access at school.

Then the work done in the classroom becomes inside-out.  The material being learned is used to develop ideas, to undertake project work.  It focuses on the application of knowledge that leads to understanding.  Typically this is the work that is the meat of assignments and projects done by the students for homework or self-directed study.

The Flipped Classroom makes best use of the teachers / instructors  and their skills . Educause have published a handy tip sheet, “7 Things you should know about….. Flipped Classrooms.”[1]

1.                   The notion is simple. It is a teaching model in which the typical lesson and the homework  elements are flipped.

You do in the classroom much more of the activity students did in assignment work.

2.                   The pattern is also simple.  A “flipped classroom” is one in which the structure hinges on the provision of pre-recorded Lectures / lessons followed by practical exercises and activity in the classroom.

These are no Oscar-winning productions.  They are visual video podcasts.  Imagine the potential of a team of teachers working together to produce the material required for a programme, each working to their strengths.  The institution could wrap a little bit of production around the presentations.

There is already available software to broadcast PowerPoint presentations.  It is surprising how simple yet effective the presentations can be – students could easily be engaged in the making of these presentations.

3.                   This approach is becoming increasingly popular in postsecondary programmes.

Not only in postsecondary programmes but great results are being reported in some high schools in the US.  A Detroit High School after several years of working in the flipped manner reported increased academic performance and an impressive decrease in the number of discipline cases which dropped by 65%.

4.                  It makes much more productive use of time in the classroom.

There is a bit of a trade-off here.  Teachers have to spend a little more time in pre-recording the presentations but they can be free in the classroom to support, explain, guide and encourage.

5.                   But the flipped classroom does require careful preparation.

Good teachers put quality time into preparation – it is simply a change in the nature of preparation.

6.                   The technology of the flipped classroom will evolve to support the out-of-class part of the equation.

Despite great interest in MOOCs and suchlike, it is still early days for developing the support required to produce the presentations.  But MOOCs have led the way and the presentation of many of them is sophisticated making effective use of the technology.  Others are more pedestrian.

7.                  The flipped classroom requires increased responsibility from the students for their own learning.

This is something more a shift perhaps than the actual involvement of technology.  The key flip is from students arriving at the lecture or lesson ready to get the material, they arrive with the material and now tackle the hard part of learning, putting the ideas into their own words, grasping the structure of material, the key aspects.  Of course the system staggers a bit if the students arrive not having looked at the presentations (3-7 minutes is an average length).

There is also a little nagging doubt I have about all this.  The Flipped Classroom is gaining ground in the US where instruction in schools and other institutions has seemed to me to be a little more conservative and one way might be the case in New Zealand.  Perhaps moving from the more formal teaching environment is clearly noticeably different in the flipped environment.  Or am I fooling myself here?  Perhaps this is just the flip we need to get higher levels of engagement.

Certainly in the US they are becoming willing to try anything that might make a difference.  Only 69% of those entering high school get their high school diploma and 1.3 million drop out of high school every year (i.e. 7,200 every day)!  So they need to work differently.  Perhaps we need to as well.

 

 


[1] 7 Things you should know about …..The Flipped Classoom (2012) Educause. Accessed at http://www.knewton.com/flipped-classroom/

Pathways-ED: The Empty Schools of New Zealand

I spent a lovely holiday once across the idyllic Kennedys Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula. We camped under the trees in splendid isolation and away from all the madding and maddening crowds.

But it wasn’t always like this.  A little further around the bay there had been in the 1800’s a thriving little town – houses, hotel and a school.  It was there to exploit the kauri needed then for spars on ships.  But that all changed and the town dwindled until now there was in the early 1970s only one house there, occupied by an elderly couple from a family that went right back.  Some Chinese gooseberry bushes planted a hundred years earlier now owned the treetops in what once had been an orchard.

This is not a remarkable or even unusual story.  All around New Zealand there are examples of towns that no longer exist, of of railway stations that are no longer used, banks and post offices that are now put to different uses and empty schools.

There are a number of reasons why schools can be empty.  Small communities have drifted to other parts and the children served by the local school simply don’t exist.  It used to be a joke that Education Boards liked to appoint teachers to such generally isolated school who had large families because that would double the roll!  Changes in the nature of employment, a sawmill closing, a dairy factory (many of which are now empty) being amalgamated with another,  and changes in farm size and modus operandi were all reasons that led to the empty school.

I was told the other day in a casual conversation that there are close to forty schools in the central area of New Zealand that are likely to run out of students over the next few years.

The demographics will have a huge impact on the placement and viability of schools over the next 30 years.  It is claimed that over that time period, the increased demand for school places in Auckland will exceed the total provision of places in the rest of the country.  This seems remarkable and, put simply, we are clearly in for a shake up.

There are however some opportunities that arise from adversity.  Such an opportunity is currently playing out in Christchurch where efforts are under way to re-position resources to allow for schools that work in different ways and provide different pathways for young people.  That such reforms should be located into communities that are under pressure might be regrettable but the opportunity is compelling.  It would have been better perhaps to have these changes made as part of a national intention to review the provision of schooling.

The water-tightness (which is really water-looseness!) of many schools is an issue that is measured in billions of dollars.  What a tragedy it would be to see those buildings simply re-built to replicate traditional provision in the traditional place and in the traditional way.  And I am not fooled by much of what passes for much of modern school buildings.  It takes more than calling classrooms “learning spaces”, placing corridors on the outside of buildings and bringing the trees inside to change a school and the way that it works.

The real changes come from the changing needs of education and the growth of ideas around increasing success for more young children and the older ones too.  Schools need to become a more humane environment where there is more emphasis on what happens inside the spaces.  Perhaps we need to be less nostalgic about the importance of fields for the playing on.  In a community characterised by intensification the juxtaposition of schools and public spaces to maximise use of land will be inevitable.

There is also the changing ways of working.  The senior secondary school is experiencing one such change right now.  The development of alternative approaches under the Youth Guarantee policy umbrella is seeing increasing numbers of students seek to continue their schooling along different pathways.  Trades academies, secondary / tertiary programmes, developments such as secondary/tertiary programmes located in tertiary environments, fees-free places in tertiary for 16-17 year olds are all developments that provide places other than in a school completely or in part.  The scale is there – by 2015 there will be around 15,000 students undertaking all or part of their senior secondary schooling in these programmes.  This means for many, being in a place other than a school.  Smart schools will be positioning themselves for a future in 30 or 40 years that involves partnerships and collaborations and working in clusters, not to be competitive but in order to provide quality provision.

There will be empty schools, there always has been.  But it would be a great pity if this was something that simply happened to schools rather than being a matter of design, the outcome of pathways for education that were designed to increase educational success.

Schools shouldn’t simply die on the vine like the Chinese gooseberries at Kennedys Bay.

 

Talk-ED: A bad apple for a teacher isn't good enough

 

The issue was building over the past couple of weeks.

Teachers who behaved unprofessionally and put young people at risk through their actions were being accorded high levels of protection through name suppression.  The same is said of the occasional doctor and lawyer but the issue here seemed to be that name suppression was being continued after the matter had been resolved by the Teachers Council even if the complaint was found to have substance.

The Teachers Council, this became the target.  I wondered whether it was because it was a Teachers Council rather than a Teaching Council that invited such constructions being placed on the issue.  After all the Law Society is not in name a “Lawyers Society” and nor is the Medical Council a “Doctors Council”.  And any entity that is made up in part of representatives of organisations whose existence is based on a mission of representing teachers will always be struggling to be seen dispensing justice even handedly.

But into the midst of these discussions comes Minister Bennett’s “security checks” on all public servants which includes teachers every three years.  To be conducted by the police they will lead to instant dismissal for any public servant whose record is not clean.  What does this mean?  Will that lead to a situation that means that a lower standard of evidence than that required by the courts will be enough to mete out serious punishment?  And what will constitute “failing” the security check.

All the wicked people who have already disgraced the profession through reprehensible behaviour and been found to have done so by the courts have presumably passed the checks that have already been made.  The imprimatur of registration has been no guarantee of safety for all students.  Will Minister Bennett’s three yearly checks be of a higher standard than those applied in the past?

The three yearly timeframe for the checks introduces a new element but what would change in a three year period that would not be before the courts or known to the police.  Surely the line needs to be drawn and efficient processes put in place to see that these ratbags are not in schools and anywhere near children for a minute longer once their proclivities and actions are known.

That raises the issue of reporting.  It seems to be something of a theme in many cases that “suspicions” were held and even raised, the issue was known and had led to a warning being given.  In the recent sickening case in Kaitaia all of these factors had been present and add to them the fact that the police had had their attention drawn to it but could not act “because they did not have the “evidence”.  More young people it seems needed to be sacrificed to get a case going.

The ones most likely to be able to stop such activity would be those working with the perpetrator.  In short, teachers are really the first line of defence against such activity.  If we accept people into the profession as fellow professionals then we should expect them to behave professionally.  That should mean that mischievous, vexatious and frivolous complaints would not surface.  It should also mean that the profession is confident about raising issues such as these with the leadership secure in the knowledge that they would be taken seriously and acted upon seriously and expeditiously.  Professionals must feel safe in exposing unprofessional behaviour if the very professionalism that drives them is to mean anything.

So the answer is probably not in Minister Bennett’s triennial trawl through the ranks but in our own behaviour in ensuring that we are prepared to stand up to stop activity that we know to be wrong or we think might be putting young people at risk.  School leadership and different community agencies have the skills to do something about it.

Education has to work for the good press that it gets.  The events of the past week or so have reflected poorly on us all.  Our personal offence should be such that we will act and have a system where the safety of our young is assured.

 

Pathways-ED: The final test of education

 

It is not just in New Zealand that there is disquiet being expressed about the trend for governments to look to assess the effectiveness of teaching and learning in postsecondary programmes by wanting increased  reporting on successful completion of qualifications. English and Australian tertiary organisations are expressing sentiments much along the lines of those expressed in New Zealand this week.

Essentially the argument is this: if there is to be increased scrutiny on successful completion then that could affect funding and that in turn will lead to tertiary institutions lowering standards in order to avoid such an outcome.

It is of interest that it is often the organisations that represent tertiary staff that make these arguments most often. Presumably it is never their members who would lower standards but someone else in the institution. There is no-one else – standards in an institution rely almost totally on the quality of work done at the interface between teaching staff and students. There are other interfaces – student support, pastoral care, administration and suchlike – but academic standards are a reflection of the quality of courses, the quality of the ways they are taught and the quality of learning i.e. results.

So a starting point might be to accept that if no learning has taken place then arguably no teaching has had impact. Of course that scenario is ridiculous but more palatable is the view that increased positive outcomes are a reflection on increased quality in teaching. Therefore, tertiary teachers should welcome the focus on outcomes as a measure. If they matter more to an institution, teaching staff are in a stronger position to be highly valued.

So why, are tertiary teachers not backing themselves? Perhaps it is largely because it has never been accepted that educational institutions are responsible for student success. The old question asked by groups such as Treasury, Ministers and the public generally, “Who is responsible for educational failure?” has for so long got the answer “No-one!”  Only this year was the Education Act amended to reflect for the first time in 134 years that someone in schools actually is – the Boards of Trustees of schools. Well they cannot actually be the ones who ensure that their responsibility is discharged but they can help by hiring good teachers, providing ongoing growth and development opportunities and helping to create the environment from which success flows.

Other factors external to the institution do get in the way but evidence is that excellent teaching to succeeding students does make a measureable impact on a student’s capacity to cope with those external pressures and obstacles. So, again, excellent teaching matters.

Arguments will be put forward that some institutions cope with student groups that are of higher maintenance than others. That is true and that is why the OECD persistently identifies as the most important factor in increasing levels of equitable social outcomes from education as making sure that such groups get the best teachers. Excellent teaching matters.

So what, then, is the point in measuring successful completion as an indication of the quality of an institution? Well, I believe that it might be tied up in the assertion that the issue in education is not that we lack competent teachers but that too many competent teachers are doing the wrong thing. Excellent teachers doing the wrong thing (in terms of the appropriateness and effectiveness with those students in those programmes) is measured by the results.

There is no hard evidence that there are children full of faculties and strong of limb who cannot learn at the point of birth. But their journey will place many things in the way of achieving the gifts that are by right theirs.

The quality of the first three years when so much critical intellectual and social development takes place will set in place the frame within which future learning will grow.

Access to early childhood education will further develop the young persons as to be ready for school.

Primary school will establish the sets of basic skills required for application in the secondary schools where the first steps along pathways to various futures take place.

Then at postsecondary the high level specialist knowledge and skill is put into place.

If the whole business of education and training is working it would show in the outcomes. But it requires everyone at every level to be measured by outcomes, by successful completion and by successful completion at increasingly more complex and demanding levels.

Rather than resisting calls for measuring the quality of institutions by successful completion levels, we need to be embracing the better futures they bring for us all and especially those we teach. Finally there would be a dent in that most stubborn of educational statistics – that only 50% of those who start a postsecondary course will complete it and those successful students represent only about 30% of the cohort born 25 years previously, full of promise.

 

Talk-ED: Never mind the warmth, feel the quality

  

They say that if a hen starts eating eggs then there really is no future for the bird.  It is a behaviour that will never go away.

I feel much the same with newspapers and NCEA.

The weekend paper from Fairfax set out to explore NCEA.  I had been involved in several discussions with them.  This attempt was to be different.  A web site would accompany the story that gave good information and enabled parents to see just where they stood in school performance.  It sounded promising.

I have long felt positive towards the Australia site (www.myschool.edu.au) which sets out to do much the same thing.  Using the NAPLAN (National Assessment Plan for Literacy and Numeracy – their equivalent tool to the National Standards here), the site offers plenty of information about school performance with comparisons between groups of schools.  Parents and caregivers are able to look at their child’s assessments and relate it to others.  There are in some places in Australia some rules around the use of such information.  Invidious comparisons are frowned on and attempts to create league tables discouraged.  Australia supplies a lot of information to its communities.

But still there are best schools and worse schools. In fact the Australian experience tells us that there is a danger in discrediting a group of schools (in their case the public system) with the result that parent opinion swings heavily against them.  I have many times been told by parents in Australia that “Of course the public schools are rubbish!”

Well that is quite clearly not the case.  There are many excellent public schools in Australia just as there are in New Zealand.  The students in our state schools have the opportunity, by and large, to succeed and many do.  The view that decile ratings relate to school performance is misguided and unhelpful.  A significant number of students who constitute to the long tail of disadvantage that contributes to New Zealand’s low ranking in social equity measures are actually in schools where the decile rating is not low and where the schools have something of a look of success about them.

What causes the angst in all this is really a view of what kind of group you would like to children to mix with.  Many parents simply demonstrate confidence in the local school and that is where the family goes.  Bravo to them, I say.  What a refreshing little story in the midst of the series about poaching among Auckland schools for the best young sportspeople.  Keven Mealamu showed talent early and the moneyed schools started hovering around.  He turned them all down and stayed put at his local school.  Keiran Read returned to his suburban high school to complete his secondary schooling after a year in another school that had offered him a deal.

We need more stories like this.  We need champions for the local school where a sense of belonging to a community can provide a supportive environment within which young people grow up, and play and make friends.  Instead we have battalions of urban tanks taking young people to distant schools and at the weekends to commercial premises where playgrounds have been set up to cater for those who have the entrance fee.  How bizarre!

It really all comes down to wanting children to mix with the right sort of people. That is what drives the housing frenzy based around school zones. That is what drives the obsession with this school rather than that school.  It whips up the need not to know how an individual is progressing but rather how the school compares.  People are usually not too open about this and cloak the issue with arguments about quality of education, learning opportunities etc.  We are seeing in this a shift from the kind of egalitarianism that used to be a hallmark of our communities.  Yes, there has always been difference among people but this was matched by higher levels of tolerance and mixing than we see now.

I fear that we are becoming intolerant of others, suspicious of difference, and losing sight of key values.  It has not had nor will it have a positive effect on the education system.

 

 

Pathways-ED: We will reap what we sow!

 

There is a certain safety in numbers. They comfort us because of the fact that they are impersonal and can often hide things. Take for example the access to early childhood education – a critically important feature of any education system that has aspirations to provide a top quality education to its young people.

The current claimed level of participation is 95% and the government goal (in the Better Public Service goals) is 98%. All this sounds quite favourable but access is not evenly available across the community with some ethnicities (especially Maori and Pasifika) accessing early childhood services at a lower rate and some communities lagging far behind.

I was told the other day that in the Tamaki area the gap in access is alarming. This area is the subject of a focused redevelopment with government agencies and private enterprise looking to lift the entire area in every respect – housing, education, health, and employment. Central to this is access to early childhood education which is critically important to the development of young people and their brains and which in turn leads to a sound education, employment and all the benefits that flow from it. Employment means a family sustaining wage, better housing and health, less reliance on the social welfare system and less contact with the social justice system.

There are in the area of Tamaki being re-developed about 7,000 children aged between 0 and 4 years of age.  There are about 2,000 places in early childhood services.

Access to early childhood services in Tamaki is running at around 30%.  What hope therefore does redevelopment stand when the fundamentals are missing?  Great store is being placed on the use of technology to lift young students’ performance and it well might.  But it cannot provide that critical brain development that happens in years 0-3 and which is helped along so much by additional stimulation.

How can this happen in New Zealand?

It happens because we are fooled by national statistics.  When we talk of the current level of access to ECE as being 95% we ignore the nuances of difference.  It is probably 100% in many communities while in other communities – often hidden in amongst a larger sub-region – it is very much lower.  This is true of parts of the southern area of Auckland, rural communities and so on.

There has been over the past couple of decades a marked increase in children accessing ECE services for full days rather than the sessional (i.e. part of a day) that was once common. These youngsters are almost certainly the children of those in employment.  They will probably be accessing the 20 hours free ECE that makes the full-time extended access possible for this group rather than have any real impact of increased access for additional young ones.  In other words, fewer children are using larger amounts of the resource.

It could be argued that parents pay at private centres for much of this and that is true.  But you only have to see the growth in numbers of the palatial Palais des Jeunes being put up around Auckland to see that there is a very considerable amount of money to be made in the provision of services to the pre-schoolers whose parents can afford it.  Government funding flows without fear or favour to these centres in the interests of the young people there and that in theory is excellent but it has also led to the ECE resource being very poorly targeted.

It is so hard for local communities to do much about this.  I have had the experience of helping a community-based Pacific trust which had been running an early childhood centre for its youngsters for many years and now wished to build a new centre.  It was a monumental task to align the resources, the officials, and the trust and to get progress.  The centre will soon open and they can take their little ones into a purpose-built centre after having made do with very difficult conditions for many years.  It ought to be easier for community based organisations to make progress in this area.

Finally, a solution is staring us in the face while we gaze at the rosy glow of Shangri La of long term goals.  ECE services could be placed into each primary school right now.  All the issues related to land, to governance, to security and to professional supervision would be solved and additional places created.  As is being done in Auckland with a small scale trial, pre-built, purpose-built ECE facilities could be placed onto sites as quickly as they can be supplied.  It ought to be possible to get hundreds of more places made available where they are needed and quickly.

Or we can continue to report progress at a snail’s pace as we inch towards numbers that comfort us.  Getting access to ECE right is urgent.

 

Talk-ED: To be there or not to be there?

 

There has been quite a bit of interesting talk lately about parents withdrawing students during from school term time for the purpose of taking them on holiday.

My first thought was “goodness me, it never happened in my time at school” and then I remembered that you can’t go far with a family on a bicycle or a little later in an Austin 10 and there just wasn’t the disposable cash floating around, and air travel was greatly restricted and not for people like us.

But all that has changed. There seems to be plenty of cash floating around for those for overseas travel, skiing and mountain sports have become family activities, air travel is relatively cheap (and the cheaper still if you avoid the official school holidays), and so on.  But several other things impact on this trend that I think started in the early 1990s and which is now seemingly common.

Quite simply, some elements in the community, a growing element perhaps, is increasingly taking the view that if it doesn’t suit to have the children in school then they will simply take them out. This lack of respect for the schools is worrying because it is present just as much among those who would assert that they hold education in high esteem through to those who have scant regard for it.

There is on the truancy parental spectrum, those parents and who condone truancy both chronic and intermittent while at the other end there are the parents who turn a blind eye to the occasional day off.  Where do we place parents taking their children on holiday? Certainly it would be a bit illogical to head for the chronic end. What about the other end, do you see them in the same light as the parent of the occasional truant?

I think not. I actually have difficulty in seeing this phenomenon – taking children off on holiday during school terms – as any form of truancy at all.  It is simply a judgment made by parents as to the little likelihood of damage to the student or, in some cases, an assessment that there would be a gain.  A trip to Europe, to other lands and  other cultures, is surely an amazing experience for a young person but only if the youngster isn’t that young that the experience will remain only in the files of photos.  A bit of judgment is needed here.

Many years ago we went as a family to England for a year with two sons aged 4 and half years and two and a half years. The elder one remembers snatches of little bits while the younger remembers none. So age becomes a factor when the “its-all-part-of-their-education” argument is used.  Similarly going to Rome or the Australian Outback or to China is a qualitatively better educational option for a holiday than going to Disneyland, Seaworld or Universal Studios.

Family is a good destination and heading overseas to meet relatives is an excellent thing for people to grow up doing.  And who can blame parents for opting to travel when air fares lower to out-of-holidays fare structures.

I would find the objections of some schools and some principals as being weightier if they could assayer parents that each and every minute in the school day is packed with educational advancement. But it is not nor can it be.

Finally I wonder if the arguments about this are fuelled to some extent by nothing simpler than the old “time served” argument. A fixed view of x hours a day for y number of years constitutes an education. But some students need less and some need more. The calculation of the school year has always been a sham and even more so when a calendar year is equated to an achievement level or a curriculum level or a qualification level.

The challenge is for those who would uncritically reject the notion that parents should not take their children out of school to produce some evidence that lateness-due-to-holiday has led to a clear failure to make progress. It might well lead to assigned failure when a student potentially misses an assessment but that would be a deplorable practice were it to held over parents.