The UK Supreme Court has decided that parents are not allowed to take their own children on holiday during school term time regardless of the child’s overall attendance, punctuality and attainment rates, or the needs of the family.
This sounds kind of reasonable, right? Surely, we need to protect kids from neglectful parents who harm their children by not giving enough regard to their educational attainment. However, bookings and flights are much more expensive during the school holidays. Many parents simply cannot afford these prices. Therefore, parents will often choose to miss some days of school, opting for a term-time holiday, than have their child miss no school time but perhaps forfeiting a holiday altogether. Yet even with this fine, it will still often be cheaper to take children on holiday out of term. Well, for wealthier parents, that is. What this fine means is that many poorer parents will not be able to have a holiday at all as they are less able to afford to pay the fine or the premium non-term time prices.
This is an outrageous decision. I grew up on a council estate, my parents were literally too poor to afford nappies. The only holiday I ever had from age 0-20 was when when I was 12, and it was paid for by people other than my parents. I never even went on these one-off school trips to places like Wales. I know the stress that no time away, no R & R, can have in a family and on school grades.
Sure, Mr Platt, the parent at the centre of this court case, isn’t trapped on a council estate like I was, but this decision applies to everyone. The decision is morally wrong for two fundamental reasons.
1. If a child’s attendance, punctuality, and attainment are otherwise good — that is, the child is being well cared for by their parents –, this ruling still does not allow parents to manage their children as they see fit. As it has been put today, parents must seek permission from the headmaster. This is a disgraceful decision, incredibly statist, and goes against the longstanding established liberal British and common sense mindset. It’s well-known that regular breaks from work or study yield greater periods of productivity.
2. It has been stated that taking kids out of school hampers the individual kid and their classmates from getting good GCSE graces due to the disruption caused. Well, you know what also hampers good GCSE grades? Tired, stressed, fatigued parents and children who don’t go on holiday or who can only holiday through excessive sacrifice in other areas. Trust me, I know.
It also needs to be said that GCSE attainment is far from the be-all-and-end-all of, well, anything. Lasting bonding time, fond memories, and a stress-free body will stand the child in good stead. That one holiday I took left me with more good memories, love for my family, and a rounded outlook than all the good GCSE grades I ultimately got. GCSEs have got me nowhere; when you’ve got A Levels, undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, that’s what counts.
This case just goes to show that even in our fair, rational, and outstandingly excellent legal system, atrocious decisions are made which affect peoples lives badly.
Note: I wrote this post at the time when this story came out, but I suffered an enforced hiatus from posting. However, whilst Mr. Platt’s story is no longer current, the issue which it refers to is still relevant. Thus, I have decided it’s still very much worth posting.
© 2017-2018 Bryan A. J. Parry
featured image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39504338