This is a controversial topic which generally provokes strong feelings depending upon the age of your kids, your level of passion for snowsports, your profession (maybe you are a teacher) and the views of your peer group. The question is; do you risk the wrath of school taking the kids away during term time? Is it worth the ‘unauthorised absence’ letter and potentially a fine or even jail? Let’s take a look.
Until September 2013 head teachers were allowed to use their discretion to allow pupils upto 10 days per year for family holidays in special circumstances, but in October 2013 the rules changed under the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove. It was then ruled that no term-time holidays could be taken and head teachers were not allowed to use discretion; parents could be fined £60 per child which, if not paid within 21 days, could rise to £120. Those who fail to pay can face prosecution with a fine up to £2,500 or three months in jail plus a Parenting Order. Harsh penalties indeed! Is it worth taking the risk just to get some slope-time?
Yes, go in term-time
- Costs during school holidays are notoriously expensive: our last holiday to Italy would have cost an extra £1800 if we had gone in the school holidays.
- Slopes are quieter and queues shorter, so less chances of a collision when everyone is blasting around the slopes, and tempers are more likely to remain intact as no one is pushing and shoving in the lift queue.
- There is greater availability of accommodation as demand is less.
- Fewer tourists mean you are far more likely to have a better ratio of instructor to clients in lessons. For you and the kids this translates into quicker progression.
No, stick to the school holidays
- Do you really want to jeopardise the kids’ future? Taking children away from their education even for a week can impact their learning, or so some people will have you believe. If your kids have had time off school through sickness or are struggling to keep up with the curriculum then maybe it would be worth thinking twice about taking them away.
- Christmas is a magical time to go on holiday with children even if it is more expensive. If you do choose to go away in school holidays checkout my previous post, Snowboarding on a budget, when Lyndsay, a teacher, gave some tips on making your money go further.
- There is no risk of disapproving teachers, raised eyebrows from friends or fines from the local authority. There is no need to justify your actions.
Personally we have always been away in term-time, but I take a holiday project which relates to work being done at school, as it helps apply some of the theoretical elements of learning to practical reality. This year Freya also learned a valuable lesson in life too. During the last day the kids participated in a slalom ski race, watched by all the parents, and Freya’s competitive nature meant she tried to ski too fast and fell. She hurt her knee and pride and was so disappointed she was crying before she had even taken off her goggles. Despite the instructor not wanting to let her try again (pushy mum that I am I insisted!) Freya picked herself up and got on the chairlift for a second try. It took guts, determination and resilience to try again in front of everyone, including her surly instructor. I was extremely proud she found in within herself to give it another go, and this lesson that we have to keep going sometimes even when we feel upset is something that she is unlikely to have got sat behind a desk in her classroom.
Various e-petitions have been set up; the Reverse Ban on Holiday’s During School Term Time petition was ‘formally closed’ in January with just over 50,000 signatures but it actually remains open for signatures as the HM Government’s Back Bench Business Committee will examine this issue again if 100,000 signatures are obtained. So those who wish to add their support to this campaign can do so by clicking here.
In the end no one should be able to tell you how to raise your children; it is your family after all. But rules exist and you have to judge whether you are willing to take that risk in breaking those rules. We think the benefits are worth the risk and we will continue to take our daughter away for a winter holiday: she learns a new skill, is exposed to a new language and a different culture and learns ‘life lessons’ all of which are an education in itself.