After Jon Platt's High Court victory last week, there has been endless speculation about how this will affect legislation and how the DfE will respond. As a mindfulness & resilience coach for kids, I'm not really interested in political point scoring only about the wellbeing of children, so these are just my personal views without any agenda.
Firstly, holidays are important, they really are. They are a small window of 'quality family time' in our ever increasingly stressful lives, they allow us to forget our worries for a while and focus on just being together. They create memories that will potentially last forever and when you get to an age when you no longer have your parents around anymore, these are the memories you hold dearest. There is also a limited window of opportunity where children still want to go away with their parents and unfortunately this coincides with the years they attend school. So when you understand how precious these times are you realise they shouldn't be reserved only for those who can afford them, you would have to be pretty hard hearted to endorse that view.
The lack of common sense or flexibility around this issue saddens me, it shouldn't be the DfE, teachers and parents at war over something that is potentially so beneficial to children and parents shouldn't be made to feel like criminals just because they can't afford, or circumstances won't allow for, a break during school holiday time.
I'm not saying that children should be taken out of school on a whim, but I also believe that there is a distinct difference between those parents who habitually take their children out of school for a variety of reasons and those who just want a family holiday. That is why the High Court was right to look at the overall attendance and circumstances of Jon Platt's case. When officials start talking about the evidence around term time absences affecting academic achievement, I think we need some context we really do. The trouble with most statistical evidence is that it's just that, a broad snapshot of children who have missed a lot of school and their performance has suffered as a result. That makes sense, I mean, if you're a child who misses school regularly because of personal circumstances, illness, truancy etc. of course your education will suffer, but that is a very different situation from a child who has an exemplary attendance record missing a few days during the school year to go on holiday, as was the case with Jon Platt.
I don't think that anyone genuinely believes that missing a few days in a school year does permanent damage to a child's academic career. I've personally never had a panicky phone call from my child's tutor if he's missed a few days through illness, telling me that he needs to do lots of extra work or else he won't meet his targets. So how can it be that if a child with a high attendance record misses a few days of school through sickness it's ok, their academic targets remain intact, but if they miss the same period due to a holiday it's an academic catastrophe? That doesn't make sense to me and when something doesn't make sense it makes me think it's probably not true. After all, independent schools have ludicrously long holidays and their students seem to do ok!
So can we just have a bit of common sense around this issue please. Parents need to support their children's education and ensure any school work is caught up on, but schools need to be mindful that quality family time is really important to the wellbeing of their students. Surely we all want the same thing at the end of the day, happy, well educated children, so let's work together on this one.
Shirley Blanch is a mindfulness & resilience coach for kids, teens & adults. For more information about her work check out www.getmindful.co.uk