Go off with your children for term-time holidays? That’s not right - for them or their schools

Parents need to take education seriously – or their offspring won’t


There is something interesting which happens to wealthy, commanding, powerful men when they can’t get their way. They really hate it! They are like giant children in suits and with briefcases. If they don’t get their way, they perform the adult equivalent of lying down, kicking their legs and screaming very loudly. They bridle and cavil and seek any manner of means possible in order to change the situation to one which favours them. Even when what stands in their way is a wholly legal,  democratic and proper system.

Here’s our Prime Minister, threatening to throw all his (and our) toys out of the Euro cot after last week’s election Jean-Claude Juncker. And here is James Haymore, a ‘high flying executive’ who has come over from the States to work in London at JP Morgan. Haymore wanted very much to take  his three children out of school for six days at the beginning of the spring term, in order to go to California with him and Mrs Haymore. Sadly Chancellor Park Primary in Colchester refused to give Toby (11), Hayden (8) and Ellie (5) leave to go. But Mr Haymore, is a man who is clearly not used to the word ‘No’. It was his right! He wanted to go on holiday, a rather long Christmas holiday, with his children. Furthermore, he wanted the children to attend a memorial service for their great-grandfather. It was their right! How important the Haymore family is. He took them anyway.

Chancellor Park Primary was not impressed with this, or at least the local authority wasn’t, and handed the high flying executive a fine for £120, a sum he probably spends every week on gym membership. One can only imagine what ran through Haymore’s high flying head at this point. (Something along the lines of “No! No! I will not bow to your pettifogging rules and regulations, you silly little people.”) He appealed against the fine, and was promptly issued with a summons. He is due to appear at Colchester magistrates court next month arguing that the prosecution is – get this – a breach of his human rights. Never mind the human right to be educated, a right dearly fought for by probably about a billion disadvantaged children in the world every day. We are talking about the human right to go to a memorial service for a great grandfather, and to have ‘family life’  swanning around California. That is more important.

Is it? It strikes me that our schools are in a desperately parlous state at the moment. They simply can’t do anything right. Academies are wrong, free schools are wrong, comprehensives unspeakably wrong. Only a few days ago teachers in ‘inner city schools’  were being berated for putting on too many ‘multicultural’ events, the presence of which apparently puts poor white children off learning anything, and is the reason for their poor performance in class. They are slammed for teaching to the curriculum, for teaching away from the curriculum, for not giving out homework, for giving too much homework. Our schools are depicted as a key source of national malaise, and Mr Gove has become their strict saviour. In terms of the holiday ‘issue’, he has replaced a policy which allowed parents to take up to 10 days of extra leave (with the head’s permission), with one which says It Is Not On. Ever. At all. Not even if your child is extremely clever and essentially can do without six days in class (which, hilariously, was one of Mr Haymore’s arguments.)

I am absolutely with Mr Gove. Parents have got to take schools seriously, because if they don’t, how can their offspring ever see them as something other than a quite nice day care drop in centre which they attend now and then? Surely someone like Mr Haymore, who has clearly been the beneficiary of excellent education, (since JP Morgan doesn’t often employ the illiterate), must see this?

Yes, it is unfair that planes and hotels put up their prices during the holidays. This is what capitalism does. It plays to the market. So be it. Yes, it is sad if a funeral happens to fall in school term, and you are 6,000 miles away. Sometimes an expat family has to make sacrifices. Even if your small children suffer “emotional strain” from losing a great-grandparent. If he was so key to the family unit, why translocate to the UK in the first place? That’s one of the questions I very much hope the magistrate at Colchester asks.

“We are good people” says Mr Haymore. Welcome, hoary old moral high ground.  Indeed, the clichés are abounding. He has already been described in a national newspaper as a “pillar of the community” . “I just hope our story will help change the system,” he continues. I very much hope it doesn’t. If every high-flying pillar of the community hopes that they can stamp their foot and change legislation simply because the current status quo doesn’t happen to suit them, then the hard-fought notion that democratically elected politicians have legal authority in our country is grievously dented.

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