Is travel education?

The Department for Education has made recent rule changes which make it harder for parents to get permission from their children’s school to go on a family holiday during term time.
The rules

  • Tougher criteria restrict ‘exceptional circumstances’ to funerals of family members.
  • Head teachers no longer have the discretion to approve absences of up to 10 days a year for family holidays.
  • Parents have no legal right to take their children out of school during term time, doing so is an offence under section 444 of the Education Act 1996.
  • The maximum fine for a child’s absence is £60 per pupil, per parent, rising to £120 if not paid within seven days. Those who refuse to pay face court action, a fine of up to £2,500 and possible jail sentence of up to three months.

The schools’ stance – poor results
Schools say that poor attendance can have a hugely damaging effect on a pupil’s education. They say that, if a child takes a week’s extra holiday each year, then they will have missed nearly three months of education by the end of their schooling.
Also, declining absentee rates and performance can have an adverse effect on league tables and competition – schools need high exam and key stage scores to stay in the game.
The families’ position – a rock and a hard place
The backlash from angry parents on this is inevitable – peak holiday demand drives up prices for flights and accommodation so that term time becomes the only way they can afford to take their children abroad.
Is there a solution?
Schools could vary the time of their holidays in separate parts of the country and travel providers could lower their peak prices but there is only so much flexibility for both these options as they remain governed by the calendar.
Richard Adams, education editor at the Guardian, says: ‘Parents could accept that their child’s classroom education is far more important than a week in Europe, no matter how many museums they visit. That’s especially true for young children: the evidence is unanimous that early-years education is vital for future attainment.’
What we think
Pitting a week in a classroom against an opportunity to explore a new place and culture, spend quality time with family and break daily routine is a very tough comparison. Subjects you learn in the classroom can seem pretty abstract without context – travel is a fantastic way to bring studies to life and spark passion in a child. Education is supposed to prepare a young person for the real world; well, travel is experiencing the real world first-hand. And so, our campaign ‘Travel Is Education’ aims to highlight the specific nature of how travel can enrich our children beyond the classroom.
What do you think? Share your experiences; have your children benefited from travel or do you think full attendance in the classroom is more important?
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