Opinion: At last, some common sense in the school holidays debate

Opinion: At last, some common sense in the school holidays debate

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Andy Perrin, chief executive of Inghams and Esprit parent Hotelplan UK, applauds the recent ruling in a magistrates court over a father who took his daughter out of school for a holiday

The Platt family from the Isle of Wight hit the headlines this week following magistrates ruling that Mr Platt should not be fined for taking his child on holiday during term-time.

The magistrates ruled his daughter had an otherwise excellent attendance record, in the light of which a week away did not breach the Education Act’s requirement that children “attend school regularly”.

Esprit has specialised in family holidays for over thirty years, so we are delighted to see that common sense prevailed here, as we have always maintained that ‘education’ and the rightly overwhelming prioritisation of what is in children’s best interest, is a much wider issue than purely school-desk lessons.

Mr Platt has articulated very precisely exactly the feedback we get from parents every day.

In his published quotes, there are two key points which sum up the stance of the vast majority of caring, diligent parents, who currently feel trapped between their head’s desire to abide by what they are told are the rules, and their heart’s conviction that these rules are badly drawn, and fundamentally not automatically in children’s best interest.

First, there is Mr Platt’s simple assertion that “I know what is best for my kids” – a powerfully held view, which we hear on the phones every day. 

And second, the equally important qualifying point he makes: “My kids’ education is absolutely important to me, but I’m also responsible for their welfare. If I think it will do them the world of good to go on holiday with the people who love them the most in the world, I will do that. If I thought their education would be affected, I wouldn’t have taken them.”

This second quote hits the nail on the head. The parents we talk to are not remotely ‘cavalier’ about their children’s education.

On the contrary, they are passionate about doing their absolute best for their youngsters, but simply believe that memorable, quality time together on a family holiday is also priceless, and that parenting means raising a well-rounded child who is happy, healthy and self-confident, not just academically qualified. 

They also recognise the world of difference between taking a 5-9 year old off school for a week, and taking a teenager away just before their GCSEs. 

The first will do no harm whatsoever to a conscientious child’s 13-year long school career, while the second would obviously be sheer madness.

Parents are perfectly capable of distinguishing between the two, and we hear a lot of real resentment at education authorities either treating parents as if they were too stupid to make these judgements themselves, or dictating that the nanny state should micro-control all our lives, as though we non-politicians are simply not to be trusted with our own children’s welfare.

In this context, it is encouraging to see the Local Government Association (LGA) yesterday throwing its weight behind the call for head teachers to be allowed to take a 'common sense approach' to holidays.

LGA Chairman, Cllr Roy Perry, said: “Blanket bans do not work and fines are now being successfully challenged in the courts ... It is time for this situation to be reassessed”, adding that “giving families time to be on holiday together can have social and emotional benefits which are of lasting value and support to children. It should not be something for which they are unduly punished".

Well said Councillor. And well done Mr Platt, for having the courage and determination to take on the authorities’ dysfunctional application of poorly thought through legislation, which for the last two years has caused countless families either to miss out on all those “social and emotional benefits” which a family holiday bring, or to feel criminalised for doing what they know is best for their own family’s situation.

Maybe now we can get back to a sensible and more balanced view of children’s education as a vital part of a child’s all-round academic, social, emotional and personality development, but not the “one and only” thing that matters.

If this is what emerges from the recent Isle of Wight case and subsequent debate, then Mr Platt will have done family life across the UK a simply enormous service.


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