Term-time holidays mean you forfeit your right to moan

If it’s OK for you, would it be OK if half the class did the same thing?

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The Independent Online

As a parent of two teenagers I am acutely aware that it ill becomes anyone to lecture others on how best to parent – glass houses and all that. But as a militant believer in the huge benefits of state education, I feel entitled to express my views on the responsibilities and duties rightly expected of those of us, the parents and pupils, signing up to that system, and that includes not taking holidays in term time.

According to new research from the Department for Education, absence from school for anything between 14 and 28 days during the two years’ of GCSE courses significantly impacts on kids’ chances of doing well. No shit. Fulfilling your potential whilst at school requires many, varied elements chief among which must surely be consistent attendance combined with collegiate behaviour.

This Government, with the now-removed Gove leading the charge, dangled the intoxicating notion that we, the parents, could and should take part in demanding rapid and radical improvements in our kids’ education. Fair enough. Yet while I hold with not one single policy pushed hastily through by this education department, I will agree that in all walks of life you pretty much get out what you put in. So how can any parent entertain the idea that missing chunks of school is not going to damage their child’s prospects? Doing so is the ultimate in anti-community behaviour, exemplified by the “I’m all right Jack” school of thought.

If it’s OK for you, would it be OK if half the class did the same thing? By the same token, I guess it’s also OK not to turn up to doctors’ appointments or to drop litter in your local park in the bits you don’t use that often.

Whatever your political leaning, does anyone believe it’s OK for every individual to choose only the bits that suit them that make up being a good, responsible member of society? And who do parents guilty of taking their kids out of school during term time think is going to help their child catch up? I’ll bet if a headteacher breezily met their request with “Sure, take them on holiday but you won’t mind if we leave them to sort themselves out if they can’t keep up when they’re back, will you?” the very same parents would be outraged.

Teachers’ morale is apparently at an all-time low and little wonder given how much constant negative press they get; and yet the “We’ll take holidays when we feel like it” brigade would certainly expect those same beleaguered teachers to go all out to meet their children’s needs if they trailed behind in class.

I’ve noticed a depressing increase in parents’ obsession with school league tables and exam results. As with any zealot holding on to shaky beliefs, that kind of parent also has to ignore the legion of other research which indicates that the quality of parenting and home-life make up a much larger proportion of how well a child will fare in life than school ever will.

Do bear that in mind while you enjoy your cheap holiday, but don’t ever even think about complaining about your child’s education thereafter because you lost that right the moment you’d modelled for them that it’s OK to pick and choose.