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.

 

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