Is travel education?

Is travel educationThe 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.

2 boys on holiday in Mediterranean streetIs 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?

Parent blogger opinions

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My Gorgeous Boys

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21 thoughts on “Is travel education?

  1. Marta

    Travel is definitely education. Those who have been beyond our borders and experienced other cultures, become more open-minded and sensitive to other cultures.
    I don’t see why school holidays can’t be staggered to take the pressure off the peak travel times. Other countries do it.
    Maybe schools can allow for a bit of extra holiday as long as the parents take the responsibility for the child to catch up with their work. We, as parents, need to share the responsibility for educating our children.

    Reply
  2. Helen Packham

    I agree that exploring different countries and cultures can provide great education! If it could be relaxed a little with some specific guidelines that ensure the parent is responsible for catching the child up on any missed work then I think it can be very enriching. Staggering holidays is a great idea.

    Reply
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  4. Emma T

    I think parents need to realise a foreign holiday once a year is not a right. However holidays and travel can be an education if it’s approached in the right way.

    Tasks and activities can be set by parents or teachers eg scrapbooks for younger children, or presentations on the return to school for older ones, to ensure it’s not just sitting on a beach for 2 weeks.

    I’m of the belief that if a child is doing the best they can in school, has good attendance, and behaves well, then it could be an example to others if there’s some allowance for a week off to travel (I don’t think more than a week is appropriate). Maybe it shouldn’t be every year.

    But there’s certainly children who’re off sick or truanting for longer each than some children have in their entire school life. And that’s discounting for the fact that some jobs mean that there’s no way a family could have a holiday during school holidays eg farming.

    Reply
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  6. Mr Lloyd

    No one has the right to tell you or fine you for taking your child out of school! As for a holiday witch in it’s own right is education as long as you give them advance notice like a job, and if holidays & taxes where the same all year then people that have kids wouldn’t have to choose.. Fine the tour operators oh no the uk gov wouldn’t do that

    Reply
    1. Mike S

      Spot on. You’ll save a darn site more than the fine if you go on holiday during school time. It’s up to you what you can afford and when.

      Bottom line: Your kids, Your decision.

      Reply
  7. Mickyblueeyes

    I agree unreservedly and have provided by children (now all grown up) with much education through the vacation experience. We have shared many happy memories and learnt much about other peoples cultures, life and experiences from travelling the world as a family. I have taken my children during school breaks, and I am not ashamed to say, I have also removed them from school to enable my family to travel and enjoy such experiences. They are all extremely well educated and grounded individuals and have not suffered from the lack of a couple of weeks not being at school. In fact I would say that they are all the richer from their experiences and from having the opportunity to travel, (in or out of school time).

    My youngest son, (the only one still of compulsory education age) is now being home educated and loving the experience and the freedom afforded him by no longer being tied to a mainstream education establishment. He has private tutors to assist him with his GCSE coursework, but he is free to explore his environment and the rest of the world whenever he can now.

    Whilst taking holiday is not a right and for some it may be a luxury rather than the norm, however, if taking your child out of school during term time makes travel a more reasonable prospect, then I would rather that they miss a couple of weeks of schooling than deny a children the opportunities altogether.

    Reply
  8. Kevin McNally

    Richard Adams of the Guardian is incorrect. The position is this:
    1. All agree there is a correlation between school absence and poor attainment.
    2. But not all agree that there is a correlation between a) Holidays with Parents and b) poor school attainment. This is different from simple school absence. Thus the current rules are not based on any research. It is simply opinion which I suspect is highly biased. I have even had a statement from the Head of Children’s Services of Cumbria Local Authority that to his knowledge there has been no research into whether absence due to parental holidays adversely effects school attainment.

    3. In the figures quoted in the Guardian Report there was no examination of whether the children involved with absence due to parental holidays did any worse than other children. Simply quoting absence figures proves nothing.

    4. Many parents would agree that their child’s unbroken education is important, but many would disagree that their child’s classroom education is unbreakable.

    Thus current rules are not only not based on any research, but are probably a legal infringement on parental rights. This is because a teacher can take your child on holiday during term time, but a parent cannot. It is simply that no one has the wherewithal to take the UK government to the European court.

    Reply
  9. Isstvan Egressy

    in my opinion some of the holidays are educational but staying on the beach for a week, enjoying the water parks , using your gadgets enabling even more time on facebook, eating endlessly on all inclusive etc and seeing your parents drinking more than enough is not necessarily an educational event. However on other hand I am from a different country and my children love to attend school over there while there is half term here, so for some even half terms can be enjoyable cultural events. But I do not beleive that missing school for a week or two has significant adverse effect on pupils development, particularly in primary school and early secondary ones. When my family moved to UK my children were in that age group and they joined in the academic year in January end finishing that year they were able to use a language and at the end of next year they were not behind at all. I think it all depends on attitude of the child and family that they willing to learn or not and ultimately does not matter if they miss school. And a last remark when school holidays are variable and do not all fall to the same week as it is the case frequently you should not be avle to go on holiday when your children attend different schools. Frankly school is important but there are other means to educate your children. The problem starts if no motivation.

    Reply
  10. shabz kay

    Education is very important i understand..but how come it is ok for school to give odd days off here and there yet parents are not allowed to take a few days. Do the days that school give off not affect education? Many schools will have after this weekend, monday off because its bank holiday and again thursday for voting..so children this week will be home 2 days weekend than again monday return to school on tuesday an wednesday than thursday off and my nephews school has a training day on friday…and its the weekend again…does this not affect childrens education? Hmmmmm two rule books!!

    Reply
  11. Mike S

    I’ve always just told the school that my daughter won’t be there for these dates. Once a headmaster sent a letter home with her detailing why I couldn’t take her out. I just added to the bottom of his letter “Please see my original letter” and sent it
    back.

    Plus, any kid that can’t make up a week’s work is unlikely to pass anyway.

    Reply
  12. paul

    Whats happened to family time.
    Where a family of 5,3 working full time and 2 at school and we still cant afford a quality holiday in school holidays.Some times you just have to stick your fingers up at the over paid system/law makers.
    They don`t know whats best for my family.

    Reply
  13. Martin

    Of course it is educational. I almost had my grandson swimming and speaking a little Spanish at the age of 4, but now he is 5 I cant take him away any more during term time. What is he going to miss at school at that age; how to do more finger painting?

    Reply
    1. Margaret Humphries

      Why not go to your local Primary School and see what 4 and 5 year olds can do? I expect it will be a great deal more than finger painting! Children of this age learn about many aspects of English – speaking & listening, reading, spelling & writing; Maths- number, measures, data handling, solving problems; Science – biology, chemistry & physics; History, Geography, Technology, Art, Music, R.E., Citizenship, P.E., and quite likely a foreign language, and probably more things I have forgotten. They certainly do in the local schools I teach in.

      Reply
  14. Mr JM Melhuish

    The educational benefit from a holiday is very dependent on the parents. When away we are always teaching our son, in fact we never stop, we try to teach at every opportunity, be it visiting distant places where he gets teaching, geography, geology, mathematics, history and foreign languages. At home he is encouraged to read anything, and taught everything from map reading to welding. He is also a very active LARP’er and historical re-enactor where he holds his own against adults. Children and even adults have such a poor general knowledge these days it is frightening and dangerous.

    Reply
  15. David

    On a side note, people need to stop blaming the travel companies for the increase in prices.

    They are businesses with employees who need to be paid and base prices on supply and demand to make the most profit when demand is high and carry them through the quieter periods.

    It is the governments responsibility to do what is best for society not travel companies. If the government regulated the school holidays to spread them out more then prices would naturally fall

    Reply
  16. Margaret Humphries

    In my opinion, if you take your child out of school on holiday in term time, you are teaching them that holidays are more important than education!
    It is not a right that parents should take their children abroad on holiday.In any case there are plenty of places to learn about in their own country. As a teacher for many years, I was never able to take my children on holiday in term time, but we managed to go abroad, camping, with our children several times in school holidays. If you look hard enough there are cheaper ways to enjoy holidays abroad in school holiday time.
    I could give several examples of children who were regularly taken out of school on holiday who failed to reach their potential. The odd day here and there missing school is unlikely to make much difference to attainment, but frequently missing weeks of school definitely does. This is now mainly because of the pressure on the curriculum and the amount children are expected to learn these days.
    Schools choosing their own holidays and staggering them would cause chaos in the education system.Then some parents would complain their children had holidays at different times because they were at different schools. Primary education is very important because children get the grounding they need to succeed at Secondary level, so I don’t agree that they don’t miss much. Again the pressure of the curriculum and the amount Primary children are expected to learn in the modern world means they can miss a great deal in a week or two away from school.

    Reply
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