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Sunday, 8 April 2012

The School Term Time Holiday Gestapo

This year, in spite of the fact that the holiday companies whack an extortionate premium on breaks taken during the school holidays, we booked our French Gite/Disneyland holiday for the first week of the Easter holidays.  However, we needed to travel down on the last Friday of term time to catch the Eurotunnel train.  Ashford is over 4 hours away from home and the gite holidays run from Saturday to Saturday so we needed to get a head start on our journey as we knew we'd be joining the mass Easter exodus of traffic on Friday afternoon.  With a toddler to consider, the prospect of being stuck on the M6 for hours was not desirable!

We phoned the kids' schools to explain the situation. We were reassured by both the Primary and Secondary school that it was no problem.  After all it was the last day of term and only for one day.  We dutifully filled in the holiday forms and the children made arrangements to find out about any work they might miss.  We did not take the decision lightly and weighed up the situation carefully.  We acted responsibly and sensibly.

Both my girls are high fliers in the classroom.  They are studious kids who always do what is expected of them and work hard, achieving good results.  Having one day off will make no difference to their education whatsoever.  In fact, substituting the last day of term for a week of being immersed in French culture, learning about the language and the history of another country is actually a huge benefit to them.  We keep diaries and scrapbooks and use our time abroad to really find about the things we experience.

However, on our return from our week away we received a letter from the Head of the secondary school.  It was telling us that the day off we took is now being registered as unauthorised and that we may be subject to a £100 fine.  I was utterly shocked that after we went to the effort of phoning and making arrangements for the day off, that they could not exercise any common sense in making a decision regarding my daughter's absence.  It's not like we took a whole week off in term time...it was one day to facilitate us having a holiday that wouldn't disrupt their schooling. 

I wouldn't be as angry if this was an excellent school.  It isn't.  This is a school where some of the teaching leaves a lot to be desired.  One teacher actually sets up a webcam to watch over the class, leaves the kids with a worksheet and disappears.  How is that classed as being taught?  I seriously doubt that my daughter would miss anything that she couldn't catch up with independently.  There are a tiny handful of inspirational, dedicated teachers who I feel have a positive effect on my daughter's education. To them I am grateful.  To the rest I shake my head in desperation.

We also received in the post another letter from the school at the same time saying that Ella has been recognised as being Gifted and Talented in seven subjects.  That does not sound like a student who is struggling to cope with school and who would be affected by a day off.  The irony was not lost on me.

I understand the reasons behind not allowing parents to pull kids out of school every five minutes, but this anal approach to holiday-taking is getting silly.  A day off, or indeed a week off, is not going to be detrimental in most cases.  If schools are going to be so blinkered, especially in cases like mine where my girls are not struggling in the slightest and who have a good attendance record, then parents will start "throwing sickies" on behalf of their children.  Is a culture of dishonesty preferable to this red tape ridiculousness?  

I am a parent who has always worked hard on behalf of my children's schools, supporting fundraising, attending events and keeping communications open.  I feel that the school should be spending more of its time concentrating on the pupils who are struggling, who are unsupported and who need intervention.  Not backhandedly changing their mind on a decision that we received over the phone and sending a really snotty letter after the event!  It's cheap, unprofessional and generally makes my feelings for this school and their headteacher plummet further.

Thankfully, we have just received another letter offering Ella a place at a new school, starting in September.  I will not be sorry to see the back of this school and will definitely be seeking other arrangements for my youngest two when they move up to secondary school.  This is one family that has now been alienated by a ridiculous and unwarranted decision regarding taking a single day off in term time. I should have phoned on the day and said she had a cold.  

7 comments:

  1. what a load of nonsence! Such a waste of time and effort for the school and a un needed stress for you after a lovely holiday, unfortunately it was most likely above the school that made the decision seems like nowadays people have lost all common sence and instead add extra work to everyone.

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  2. Wow, what a mess up, sounds like they've sent letters out to everyone who took the last day off whether they knew or not, like you say shoddy work.
    The twins start school in September and I'll be interested to see how the land lies, so happy you're moving on to a new place ;)

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  3. Too many people in suits just churning out letters willy nilly and not taking cases on individual merits. Hope you give them what for when school reopens xxx

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  4. If your school is anything like most then they usually spend the last week watching videos and not a lot else whilst end of term preparations are done by teachers. Red tape versus common sense? I would say so!

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  5. I was appalled to read your blog about the possibility of having to pay £100 fine because Ella had a day off school so you could start your holiday a day early to avoid the Easter rush, especially as you were courteous enough to phone the school in advance and had the clearance to go ahead with your plans. What on earth is wrong with this school - logic tells me that the situation will be resolved once it is confirmed that you did, in fact, notify them. I am glad that Ella has been accepted in a new school in September.

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  6. Wendy I'm appalled. They have it in their discretion to grant up to 10 days authorised absences a year and having given verbal permission, I don't think you should accept this. I'd be making an appointment with the headteacher to discuss this because it's just not good enough. It will almost certainly stay on her record and it's unjustified in doing so.

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  7. Recently had an officious letter for my son who is in Nursery education from the council's attendance officer!
    If you think the policy is wrong then please sign this petition:
    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/6412

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