My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together
UK School Holidays and the 21st century
I am a parent of a 5 and 2 year old, the eldest has just started her 2nd year of primary school here in the UK.
One thing we found quite quickly last year is that it’s now pretty impossible to take a family holiday once one of the children have started school as you are beholden to the school calendar for those parents that work there is also the added complexity that pretty much all school holidays in the UK are on the same dates so employees (and thus employers) have a difficult situation ensuring business as usual cover as all the staff when all parents are forced to take the same periods of time off to attempt a family holiday.
All the holidays in the school holiday period are also at least twice as expensive because of the demand, and in the current economic climate many parents can’t simply afford to travel with their children, thus children lose out on an important part of their non-formal education.
Because of this many parents just take their kids out of school anyway to avoid the cost and risk legal action. Some schools are quite pragmatic about this, and authorise leave “on an exceptional basis” but as schools are all now driven by government targets for attendance this leaves them in a difficult position with regards to securing funding and rankings based on this performance. In fact, when we looked at schools for our daughter they said they were quite pragmatic about this sort of thing; although in reality they have since cracked down because they “need” to improve their attendance figures to support their application for academy status, which was a somewhat disappointing and short-notice U-turn.
I would like to propose a more pragmatic approach that is in-line with the current world (and not the 1900’s where a majority of children were needed to help with the farm harvest etc.).
Rather than give a 6-7 week break in the summer, reduce this to 2-3 weeks, likewise making all the other 1/2 term, easter etc. holidays a maximum of 1 week compulsory holidays to allow teachers to gain some ability to plan schedules and learning plans for all the children etc.
Then take the remaining balance of holiday and allow parents to apply for leave, with an appropriate advance-notice period (3 months), maximum of 2 concurrent weeks at a time, and on the condition that they arrange homework or similar to cover any items missed to allow children to catch-up (with appropriate afterschool support if required) as any responsible parent would do anyway.
This would be a much better fit for the current way we all work, and gives the children the benefit of learning how this sort of thing works when they get into the real world of work and possibly allow them to experience more of the world. Work/life balance is important and it should also begin at school.