Farron backs right to term-time holidays

I would normally apologise for linking to the Daily Mail, but on this occasion, as the piece in question has a video showing some of Tim Farron’s first speech as leader, I’m not going to.

The paper quotes Tim Farron expressing support for a motion that’s coming to Conference later this month which would give parents the right to take their children out of school for ten school days for holidays.

He told them:

Many employees have no choice when to take their holidays.

‘People in areas, such as my Westmorland constituency, have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season.

So, it’s vitally important to offer more flexibility to schools and headteachers to help families who need to take a break together.

Thornbury and Yate member Karen Wilkinson has written several times for this site about the law change, describing it as “illiberal.” writing in 2013:

This deeply illiberal measure goes to the heart of the relationship between the state, the individual and family life. As one parent said “It is time we re-established parents as the primary carers”. While schools are targeted on the exam results, my target is happy, well-balanced, well-rounded, open-minded, emotionally intelligent children equipped to deal with the fact of existence, life, death and a rapidly changing world. The state’s role is to facilitate that, not to take it over or inhibit it.

Since then we have seen reports of children being denied requests for absence to even attend their parent’s wedding, or, even worse, funeral, or to spend time with them before they died.

Promoting attendance at school is important, but it’s also important to be flexible and realistic. The reality is that if some kids can’t have a term time holiday, then they won’t have a holiday at all. For all thirteen years of their school career. That does not seem right.

I was one of those parents who happily took my child out of school, usually for the last few days, because it saved a fortune. We had to stop doing that when said child expressed a wish to stay for the last-day talent competition. It was a great experience for a young child to be ordering stuff in Spanish for us and I wonder if that’s set off a total, almost obsessive passion for languages.But just having that time and space out with family, wherever it is, is a really important part of growing up. It should not be for the state to dictate that a family should only do that in a few specified weeks per year. There are all sorts of reasons why that is impractical. The liberal thing is to give parents the choice and that’s why I support the motion coming to conference.

Thumbnail featured post image by USAG-Humphreys Flickr CCL.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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88 Comments

  • Ross Fifield 3rd Sep '15 - 5:09pm

    This seems like we are accepting that the market is right in hiking prices to ridiculous levels outside of term time. Aren’t we avoiding the root cause here?

  • Well if it is true that the market is “hiking prices to ridiculous levels” then there is room for someone to make a living by selling holidays at a discount to market prices etc. In these days of Uber, Airbnb should we not be surprised that no one has attempted it?

  • I’m sorry but this is wrong on every level.

    There are children in the world who are denied an education and many others who have to pay for it. In some countries children walk for miles and miles each day to get an education. In this country our children are lucky to have free education for everyone. We should honour that education (and our previledge in having it) and teach our children to respect and value it by attending 100% whenever possible. I was born in a country where we had to pay. My father would not countenance any days off, when we came to the UK, for any reason except death. Political leaders, parents,carers we should all pass on to our children how incredibly lucky we are to have education free and available to all children and value the days we spend in School, every single one of them.

  • A Social Liberal 3rd Sep '15 - 6:11pm

    I can’t disagree with the premise of this article enough.

    Give parents an inch and they will take a mile. Saving money on holidays to the Med is a not a valid reason for children being abscent from school. If you really feel that parents should be free from premium prices then create a policy in favour of halting price increases to package holidays when school is ‘out’.

  • Tsar Nicholas 3rd Sep '15 - 6:26pm

    Tim Farron is absolutely right. It is not a matter of the market hiking prices in summer, so much as the market offering discounts in low season.

    The disgraceful attitudes of education minsters in England and in Wales (don’t know about Scotland) together with that of council chiefs and head teachers is depriving families of quality time together and putting intolerable strains on family life. It’s not always feckless parents seeking a way to save a few quid, very often it’s a matter of many parents not being able t get time of work at times that fit in with the school calendar. This happened in south Wales in 2014 when police officers had no options for time off in the months leading up to the NATO summit.

    At the end of te day Liberals must remember that children do not belong to the state.

  • Phil Beesley 3rd Sep '15 - 6:44pm

    Caron Lindsay: “I would normally apologise for linking to the Daily Mail…”

    Isn’t this Daily Mail contempt a bit daft? Isn’t it like behaving like the Daily Mail?

    The Daily Mail is a very clever newspaper. Some people ascribe its success to Paul Dacre but the paper earlier learned how to bring in women readers. Femail never made it as a brand but the Daily Mail has long sold itself to women.

    The Daily Mail is a popular paper for Lib Dem voters. They’ve worked out how to read between the lines, we hope.

    The Daily Mail wrapped its news and commentary around adverts for years, then became wrapped around fish and chips. If we could wrap our chips in newspaper, the Daily Mail would be diminished (or resorting to a scare story about dangers of newsprint).

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Sep '15 - 7:08pm

    You do rather illustrate the problems here.

    ‘Since then we have seen reports of children being denied requests for absence to even attend their parent’s wedding, or, even worse, funeral, or to spend time with them before they died.’

    This isn’t a holiday. Compassionate absence is one thing, however it’s rather different to two weeks in Magaluf. Conflating the two doesn’t seem to help the argument very much. I’m not totally convinced by the wedding example either.

    ‘The reality is that if some kids can’t have a term time holiday, then they won’t have a holiday at all.’

    Again, what do we mean by, ‘holiday,’ here? I’m not entirely sure that I see jetting off to the sun on the cheap as something akin to a human right. You can’t have this both ways, either you want to promote attendance or you want to place a, ‘holiday,’ (whatever that means in context) above it.

    ‘But just having that time and space out with family, wherever it is, is a really important part of growing up. It should not be for the state to dictate that a family should only do that in a few specified weeks per year.’

    No one is dictating anything here. Maybe I’m wrong – I just don’t see this as an affront.

  • The reality is that if some kids can’t have a term time holiday, then they won’t have a holiday at all

    Of course they will have a holiday. They might have to have it somewhere closer to home, but as has been pointed out, it is not a human right to be able to jet off to the sun.

    But just having that time and space out with family, wherever it is, is a really important part of growing up.

    Of course it is. But ‘time and space out with the family’ can be had anywhere. It doesn’t require cheap package deals to far-flung places that are only affordable during term-time; it can be had in a B&B on the coast, or in the Scottish Highlands.

    My father was a teacher, so I couldn’t have holidays in term-time. As a result, other than one school trip, I didn’t have a foreign holiday my whole school career. Do you think I never had ‘time and space out with the family’ because my holidays were spent in the Lake District instead of the Canary Islands? Really?

  • “Since then we have seen reports of children being denied requests for absence to even attend their parent’s wedding, or, even worse, funeral”

    After ten minutes Googling, the only example I can find of a child supposedly being denied permission to attend a parent’s wedding was a fabrication – it turned out the parent in question hadn’t even bothered to tell the school about the wedding.

    I can find no examples of a chid being denied permission to attend a parent’s funeral. The nearest I can find is a five-year old girl who was refused permission to attend her grandmother’s funeral in Pakistan – but that was because the funeral was scheduled to last for forty days.

    As a parent I can appreciate the outrageous cost of non-term-time holidays. In my borough, primary schools get two weeks at summer half term rather than the usual one – we always used to go away during the extra week and saved hundreds of pounds each year as a result. A little staggering of this kind would seem to me the best kind of solution, especially as the children whose parents will be most pressured to buy cheap holidays are precisely the children who need all the educational advantages they can get their hands on – including the maximum possible attendance.

  • “refused requests for absence to even attend their parent’s wedding, or, even worse, funeral, or to spend time with them before they died”.

    Sorry, I can’t buy that…….. and even if it was true a nice legal point under the Human Rights Act.

    The only case I’m aware of was in Stephen Lloyd’s constituency in Eastbourne when despite a Cameron “I’ll look at it”, the Home Office refused permission for some Zimbabwean grandparents to attend their grand child’s funeral.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 8:11pm


    The paper quotes Tim Farron expressing support for a motion that’s coming to Conference later this month which would give parents the right to take their children out of school for ten school days for holidays.

    No! Please, please, please do NOT support this.

    As a university lecturer I have seen this happen so many times to my students. They are dragged off on holiday or some event by their parents during term time. As a result, they miss some crucial lecture, and when they come back they are lost and can never catch up. Believe me, I have seen on several occasions this leading to a student failing his or her degree. Oh, they say they will “catch up”, but they can’t. In many subjects, particularly mathematical and scientific ones, each element builds up on previous elements. So once you are lost because you missed out, you are really lost.

    If this is so with university students, it is even more so with school pupils. This is something which could potentially ruin a child’s life.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 8:12pm

    Tim Farron

    People in areas, such as my Westmorland constituency, have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season.

    If that is the case, give them the flexibility to have official school holidays at other times and make the tourist season a time when school teaching takes place.

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Sep '15 - 8:17pm

    Huntbach – Seriously? Kids today! Good grief! I wouldn’t have been seen dead with my parents on holiday any time after about age 14.

  • What’s wrong with Easter or half term in May and October ?

    Sorry Tim & Carron, I agree with Matthew………………….. and of course our pal Nicola is introducing (foolishly) tests again…….. mind there are some youngsters where the Head might encourage them to disappear for the occasion of the tests.

  • Bim

    have you looked at the price of British holidays these days?? Most people want to go abroad because it is cheaper, not just sunnier!

    However I have never agreed with this policy, which gives no discretion to schools whatsoever. Holidays, even in Mageluf, are very beneficial to children, who need the space to run around that they often do not get much at home these days. Our children always had highly educational experiences on holiday and the school knew that (although I am not going to pretend that was universal!).

    Spreading out the holidays in different areas would help a lot. There is no reason why the 6 week summer break should not shift by 2 weeks or so from place to place, and the half terms could shift in parallel. This would help the travel industry by extending the peak season, while reduced demand would make that peak cheaper. Blaming the travel industry for increasing prices during the only time they can get full occupancy is very perverse!

  • Magaluf ????

    Nah, come to Sunny Dunny……. no queues at Security, no passports, miles of golden beach, rock pools, loads of things to do… learn to play golf, boat trips to Bass Rock, go fishing, feed the seals, listen to the curlews, learn to sail or surf board, walk the John Muir trail, ride a pony, scrumptious scones at the bakery…………… and all can be paid for with real Scottish notes (which isn’t always the case on the buses in Bournemouth !! ).

  • Paula Keaveney 3rd Sep '15 - 8:56pm

    If we value education then we must accept that it is not some pick and mix thing. Like Matthew I am a University Lecturer and I have seen the results of students (or their families on their behalf) choosing to miss big chunks of teaching. It is nigh on impossible to catch them up and this can only happen by my putting aside what I had intended to do with the rest of the group to go back several weeks. There isn’t a magic box containing extra days and weeks to provide time to do catch up sessions with people who choose to miss teaching. If parents choose to have their children miss teaching then they are creating a situation in which the youngsters may struggle to catch up. The best solution would be staggered term times ( between rather than within local authorities) so the holiday period is both longer overall and contains less demand per week.

  • Peter Andrews 3rd Sep '15 - 9:00pm

    My parents took me out of school for a week for at least a couple of years when I was in primary school. I don’t remember ever struggling to catch up. Mind you I was probably towards the top of the class, I can see it being more of an issue if the child is already struggling at school.

  • Little Jackie Paper 3rd Sep '15 - 9:13pm

    Paula Keaveney – ‘ If parents choose to have their children miss teaching then they are creating a situation in which the youngsters may struggle to catch up.’

    Sorry, but are you talking about university students here? If so, I have to ask, ‘are you serious!’

    These people are adults with agency who are responsible for their studies! Good grief this is not some extended adolescence. I despair of just about every aspect of your comment.

    When I was at university a holiday was something I spent washing dishes and serving in a bar for 60+ hours a week with reading thrown in.

  • My daughter decided to go to school for the first time when she was 12. Previous to that she had been autonomously educated. She felt that her classmates had wasted seven years of their lives sitting around being ‘educated’, or at least that the education that she had constructed for herself, with parental support of course, was rather more holistic than that offered by the national curriculum. Even when she was at secondary school we did not hesitate to take her out for a day, or more, if it was for something that was going to enrich her life in some way. Education is something that does not just happen in the classroom.

  • Tsar Nicholas 3rd Sep '15 - 9:47pm

    When I was at university back in the 1970s I skipped lectures and just attended seminars, which were compulsory. I compensated by doing a lot of reading around subjects – so much better than somebody droning on about the same material.

    This idea that learning only takes place in the classroom or lecture theatre is special pleading by vested interests and has no relation to reality at all.

  • Richard Underhill 3rd Sep '15 - 9:50pm

    We should distinguish between flexibility for parents and flexibility for schools.
    Allow the head-teachers in tourist areas to juggle the days of attendance and length of day.
    I remember getting a chipped ankle after slipping in the winter. The school did not make uo the lost tuition.
    In the modern world slightly lower marks can afect chances of university and/or chances of a good job.

  • Richard Stallard 3rd Sep '15 - 10:12pm

    There are poor people in this world and there are rich people. Some can afford a Porsche GoFaster with extraterrestrial turboboost (and perhaps that makes them happy?) – some can’t, and often they’re equally happy. Some can jet off abroad during the school holidays because their parents are rich company directors and can take time off when they want, others make do with a couple of damp weekends in a tent in Bognor, and probably have just as good a time.

    Why should someone who has less money always be perceived as poor, in need of help or unfairly treated just because they can’t have what a rich person has? It’s like some communist nightmare where everyone must be equal.

  • John Tilley 3rd Sep '15 - 10:24pm

    Children are now forced to remain “school children” until they are 18.
    But in reality many of the, will benefit very little at all from around 15 years in state education.

    I doubt if our former junior minister at The Department of Education woud ever admit such a thing. However, some of my teacher friends will occasionally admit that the most useful stuff for these children is delivered at primary school and after that they are just involved in “crowd control” and “containment” until the children get to 18.

    For these children it does not matter tuppence if their parents take them off to Spain for two weeks in term time. But nobody is going to admit that in public. There is a taboo requiring us all to pretend that every child is going to go to university, get a “good” degree, get a “good” job and live happily ever after.

  • LAs/schools can pick their own term dates. For example, David Young Academy in Leeds has the following 7 terms:

    Academic Year 2015-2016 (http://www.dyca.org.uk/academy-year-dates/)

    Block One: Monday 8th June – Friday 17th July 2015
    Block Two: Tuesday 18th August – Friday 25th September 2015
    Block Three: Monday 5th October – Friday 6th November 2015
    Block Four: Monday 16th November – Tuesday 22nd December 2015
    Block Five: Wednesday 6th January – Friday 12th February 2016
    Block Six: Wednesday 24th February – Wednesday 23rd March 2016
    Block Seven: Monday 11th April – Friday 20th May 2016

    I imagine you could get a great value trip to the Canaries 26 Sept-4 Oct, or 7-15 Nov, or 13-23 Feb.

  • @John Tilley “Children are now forced to remain “school children” until they are 18.
    But in reality many of the, will benefit very little at all from around 15 years in state education.”

    I agree with John Tilley shock!

  • “As a university lecturer I have seen this happen so many times to my students. They are dragged off on holiday or some event by their parents during term time. As a result, they miss some crucial lecture, and when they come back they are lost and can never catch up. Believe me, I have seen on several occasions this leading to a student failing his or her degree. Oh, they say they will “catch up”, but they can’t. In many subjects, particularly mathematical and scientific ones, each element builds up on previous elements. So once you are lost because you missed out, you are really lost.”

    I have repeated Matthew’s comment simply because it deserves to be repeated. Tim Farron is displaying exceptionally poor judgement.

    More worryingly Farron looks like yet another politician who is quite prepared to deliver a kick in the teeth to teachers.

  • Steve Comer 4th Sep '15 - 12:29am

    Interesting example form the David Young in term of term dates.
    To me this begs the question of why most schools stick to the old pattern of a six week summer break anyway. It arose form a time when children worked the land for the harvest, yet that is simply not relevant today. I remember going on holiday to the Netherlands a few years ago, and noticing that children were returning to school in August, and University students in September. Schools have felxibility now, but most stick to the old pattern. the trouble is a six term year perpetuates the old three term one in a different form, if more schools went for a five term year, they could have more frequent breaks.

    I understand the lobbying of those in the education industry for a draconian response against parents wanting a few days with their children when they can both afford it and get time off work. No doubt they feel under pressure of Ofsted, league tables etc. Yet as Liberals we should be making clear that children are individuals not owned by the state. And there is more to education than merely acquiring exam passes.

  • To me this begs the question of why most schools stick to the old pattern of a six week summer break anyway. It arose form a time when children worked the land for the harvest

    No. It didn’t. And if you think about it for longer than a second and a half it’s obvious they didn’t: the first children to go to school were the children of clergy, the children of the nobility, or the children of guilds, none of whom would have had anything to do with harvesting.

    Children of agricultural labourers — you know, the ones who might have actually helped with the harvest — didn’t go to school at all until the eighteenth or nineteenth century, and then they went to Sunday school if anything. Weekday schooling for the sorts of children who might have had anything to do with the harvest cannot possibly have happened until the middle of the nineteenth century, by which time term dates were well established.

    I mean, seriously, this myth so annoys me because it is so obviously bogus and I don’t se how anyone who’s given it the slightest thought could believe it.

    School terms are as they are because the first schools needed teachers, and where did they get teachers from? Well, from universities of course, primarily Oxford and Cambridge. So they thought that the academic year should be structured as Oxford and Cambridge did it, in three terms with short gaps for Christmas and Easter and a long gap in the summer. That was what they were used to so that’s what they did.

  • More absurdity,another band wagon more opportunism

  • Why did Oxford and Cambridge organise their terms that way? Well, because those are the old legal terms — the dates when courts sat, established in the twelfth century when courts were peripatetic. And why do courts sit then? Well, to avoid the major religious festivals (Christmas and Easter), to avoid having to take oaths during Lent (possibly, there’s some dispute about that one) and, yes, indeed, to avoid the harvest season when people would be too busy to attend court.

    So school terms are as they are now, basically, because of the religious and agricultural calendars of the twelfth century. Nothing to do with children helping with the harvest (which should be obvious if you think) and a good example of why we shouldn’t reorganise things just because it would be more ‘convenient’ to have two semesters a year because how cool is it that when you dig into this apparently arbitrary thing it’s actually based on a perfectly sensible tradition that connects us to a millennium of history?

  • parents wanting a few days with their children when they can both afford it

    Since when did it cost money to spend time with your children?

    It costs money to take them abroad, indeed. But I wasn’t aware that it cost any money simply to spend time with them.

  • There’s more to education than sitting in a classroom reading Shakespeare Sonnets and trying to find ‘x’ in Math.

    Martin: Your university students are not school children, they are adults. So this wouldn’t apply to them. Even if it did, If they make the conscious decision to go flying off to Spain for a week in February, then it’s up to them to decide not someone sitting behind a desk.

    Remember education is so important we give them 11 weeks off every year. One week isn’t going to be a major difference.

  • Very disappointing that once again Tim has neglected any “think-through”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '15 - 6:01am

    Little Jackie Paper

    Huntbach – Seriously? Kids today! Good grief! I wouldn’t have been seen dead with my parents on holiday any time after about age 14.

    Most of the students I teach come from an Asian background, very few are white English. That partly accounts for it, “holiday” here generally means visiting relatives back “home”. Although with white English students there has been a juvenilisation over the years. For example, when I was applying to university I went off to interviews on my own, it would have been considered weird to have your parents come with you, but now it’s the norm.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '15 - 6:18am

    Tsar Nicholson

    When I was at university back in the 1970s I skipped lectures and just attended seminars, which were compulsory. I compensated by doing a lot of reading around subjects – so much better than somebody droning on about the same material.

    It depends on the subject. Also, it’s not just lectures. In my case it’s the labwork which is the crucial thing for learning. Although there is a very close correlation between lecture attendance and success in the degree. Yes, a lot of students think they know it all and so don’t attend, but a lot of the problem is that they don’t know what they don’t know. A lot of students pick up this idea that they don’t need to attend and can lean by themselves, but while there are some who can, there is a much higher proportion who think they can but can’t. Also, “a lot of reading around the subject”? Gosh, I’d love it if my students read around the subject. But it’s hard enough to get them to read the notes instead of just the PowerPoint slides (which they insist I must provide). Hardly any of them read the textbook I suggest or follow all the weblinks I give for useful extra reading.

  • Well I won’t be supporting this motion. It completely undermines the management of schools and the professional status of teachers. You wouldn’t run a business like that with half the staff not turning up when they feel like it. Unfortunately Tim Farron has demonstrated that like most other politicians he’s not above a cheap stunt to get a mention in the Daily Mail.

    I don’t see how a couple of weeks in Majorca surrounded by other British parents and their kids or ten days eating McDonalds in Disneyland counts as any kind of educational experience. As for the lists of life skills absent children are supposed to learn, how about ‘you can’t always have what you want when you want it’?

    Why some contributors to this website cannot work out that if holiday companies were forced to have ‘low prices’ during peaks periods there wouldn’t be any holiday companies I do not know.

  • Neil “Remember education is so important we give them 11 weeks off every year. One week isn’t going to be a major difference.”

    Parents have ELEVEN weeks together for ‘quality’ time and yet Tim Farron does not think this is enough?

  • Tim is wrong….It won’t just be one pupil taking two weeks off or pupils taking the same two weeks….It will be pupils taking different periods in the term/year…
    Result; classroom chaos…. In almost every subject, at different times, cries of, “But, sir/miss, I wasn’t here when you did this” …….

  • <iParents have ELEVEN weeks together for ‘quality’ time and yet Tim Farron does not think this is enough?

    Remember: ‘It was a great experience for a young child to be ordering stuff in Spanish for us ‘

    Apparently quality time doesn’t count unless you spend it somewhere they don’t speak English. Those two weeks you spent just playing with your kids around the house, or when you camped out in Norfolk and bonded over putting up a tent in the rain? Pffft, no kid cares about that. If you don’t take them to sit in a café in Majorca then you are a BAD PARENT.

    Remember that. Only expensive holidays count as quality time.

  • Tsar Nicholas 4th Sep '15 - 10:02am

    Matthew Huntbach

    I take your point about labwork, but as regards the correlation between attendance and performance, I put it to you that attendance may actually be a proxy for interest and therefore only indirectly feeds into performance, if at all.

    In any event, I think that schools are not as lab-dependent as universities are, and the lack of discretion is causing some really bad injustices to occur – “Sorry, boy, you can’t attend your mother’s funeral.”

    ps – It’s Tsar NicholAS

  • Surprised by the authoritarian response by many members here. I’ve taken my kid out of school without permission (which I’m technically not entitled to do) twice this year. Once at the end of the summer term in the last week (when they normally play games and do little work) in order for her to go to Italy with her best friends family. The other time was a day off to go to a concert. She’s academically top of her year, I regard some life experiences as more educationally important than anything that can be learnt in school. If she misses anything at school because she’s off doing something else it’s her responsibility to catch up, but I don’t want her to spend her life confined and restricted by the system. She’s never ill, so her attendance record is still above average. Headteachers always had the discretionary power to grant term time absence with a good reason until recently, so it would seem like this is a removal of social liberty that was done during the last government.

    I’d also point out that this subject is a classic modern class discriminator – we get to do what we want and the head teacher has always turned a blind eye to it. If my kid’s SATs weren’t as good I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case. If I was unable to remove her from school whenever I chose I’d home school her.

  • @Tsar NIcholas III
    “In any event, I think that schools are not as lab-dependent as universities are, and the lack of discretion is causing some really bad injustices to occur – “Sorry, boy, you can’t attend your mother’s funeral.””

    Eh? When has any pupil ever been denied the opportunity to attend their mother’s funeral?

  • I’m sorry but in a week when we are told that thousands of vulnerable people have died due to welfare sanctions and now the refugee crisis, is this really what Lub Dems consider a topic worth devoting time to, so serious and urgent that it requires a vote at Conference? The party seems to have no agreed policies on global warming, fracking, education, welfare, the economy, housing, Trident, nationalisation, etc etc and yet you want to be debating school holidays?

  • Tsar Nicholas 4th Sep '15 - 10:55am

    Steve

    There was a case of a boy being refused time off to attend his mother’s wedding. It is only a matter of time.

  • Jayne Mansfield 4th Sep '15 - 11:10am

    I really disagree with this.

    As Phyllis says, there are parents in other countries who would be fighting for the educational opportunities available in ours. It helps explain why so many children from recent immigrant groups are doing so well academically

    If families believe that children learn more at home and interacting with their parents than they do in the classroom, there is always the option of home schooling. It is something that we considered and rejected. Children do not attend school twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks of the year.

    As far as I am concerned any disruption to the learning process is unmerited except on exceptional grounds which can be judged by the teacher and Head of school.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '15 - 11:24am

    Tsar Nicholas

    I take your point about labwork, but as regards the correlation between attendance and performance, I put it to you that attendance may actually be a proxy for interest and therefore only indirectly feeds into performance, if at all.

    Sorry about the name issue, was typing quickly as usual in semi-auto mode.

    On attendance, I am saying this from 26 years of experience. So, so often I have come across people who take the attitude “I know all this, I don’t need to attend”, and get lost and fail because they just thought they knew it all. Yes, there are some who can get away by doing it all through self-study. There are a great many others who just think they can, but can’t. The problem is that sending out the “you don’t need to attend to do well” message means it gets heard by those who want an excuse not to put the work in.

    I quite agree that on the face of it, the point of actual lectures is a puzzle, because you could just learn it all from the notes and doing the exercises. However, the correlation is there – you look at the figures, attendance rate and final results and it’s very obvious. My module has a high failure rate, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a student who attended regularly fail. I always say the lectures work as the pace-maker of learning, they keep you going at the right pace, making that effort to attend does seem to keep you going more generally in the study.

  • @Tsar Nicholas,
    “There was a case of a boy being refused time off to attend his mother’s wedding”

    A wedding is not remotely similar to a funeral. If I was a Head I would refuse the pupil leave of absence for a wedding. Weddings traditionally take place at weekends, are planned months or years in advance and can be chosen to be at a weekend or school holiday. Funerals , for obvious reasons, take place at short notice and are traditionally held at any time throughout the week. Some religious traditions require that burial takes place at very short notice. I cannot imagine that a school would ever prevent a pupil from having a day off to attend their mother’s funeral.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '15 - 11:29am

    Phyllis

    I’m sorry but in a week when we are told that thousands of vulnerable people have died due to welfare sanctions and now the refugee crisis, is this really what Lib Dems consider a topic worth devoting time to, so serious and urgent that it requires a vote at Conference?

    Yes. I do think the education of children is a serious issue. As I’ve been trying to point out here, the actual aspect being discussed here is a serious one. Why do you bother going on and on about tuition fees, Phyllis, when you seem to think that what they are used to pay for isn’t a serious thing worth discussing? As I’ve already said, poor attendance has a big correlation with educational failure.

  • Matthew Huntbach 4th Sep '15 - 11:33am

    Tsar Nicholas

    There was a case of a boy being refused time off to attend his mother’s wedding. It is only a matter of time.

    One of the biggest problems I face is when students are dragged off by their parents to attend weddings and funerals on the other side of the world, and thus miss a week or two of teaching.

    Some of the comments here do seem to assume the sort of all-white English society that is very different from where I live and work.

  • A wedding is not remotely similar to a funeral

    And given that the single biggest factor in determining a child’s future success is the stability of their home and family life, a child whose mother is getting married (and presumably not to the child’s father) likely has other major problems as well. The last thing they need is to be missing school as well.

  • “‘People in areas, such as my Westmorland constituency, have to work all through the summer at the height of the tourism season.
    So, it’s vitally important to offer more flexibility to schools and headteachers to help families who need to take a break together.”

    Sorry Tim but your solution is only half-baked! Lets take your first sentence, by implication parents are working during the traditional schools summer holiday and hence have to make arrangements for the care of their children during this time. It would seem to me that in your constituency it would logically make sense for the schools to be open during this period and hence closed for holidays at some other time, something they can do currently if they wanted. Yet this isn’t what you are calling for; your proposal whilst allowing family holidays to be take during term-time would still leaves parents with the school holiday care headache…

    As a parent, with two children with different term dates (they are only on holiday together for the two weeks of Christmas/New Year and four weeks starting mid-July), the only flexibility I want is the ability take a child out of school for the odd day without it being a major incident; if that means giving: notice, a reason and paying the school a small fee (ie. less than 50% of the fine to the LEA for an unapproved absence) then I’ll be more than happy.

  • ChrisB 4th Sep ’15 – 10:21am ……….. we get to do what we want and the head teacher has always turned a blind eye to it. If my kid’s SATs weren’t as good I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case. If I was unable to remove her from school whenever I chose I’d home school her……

    Classic, “I’m all right, Jack”….So there will be a ‘cut-off’ enabling some parents to remove pupils with no sanctions and others to be fined?
    As for, if I don’t get my way “I’d home school her’; most parents don’t have the option of ‘Home school’.

  • Sarah Olney 4th Sep '15 - 12:51pm

    There are some very snotty remarks here about “two weeks in Magaluf” and the like. The destination of the holiday should have nothing whatever to do with the principle. Would it be OK if it were two weeks in the Caribbean?

    I think our argument should be that discretion about time away from school should be restored to headteachers, as being the best placed person to decide whether the child will benefit.

    We should extend that discretion to allowing them to vary term dates to accommodate peak employment season if that coincides with traditional school holidays. Some older teenagers surely benefit from the increase in temporary work available in the summer months, but smaller children would be better off in school if their parents are working.

  • Matthew Huntbach

    Of course attendance at school is a serious issue – have you read my first comment on this? In my opinion, after keeping them safe and healthy, it is the single most important obligation that a parent has towards their child : to make sure they are educated so that the next generation has the best possible chances in life. Lack of education keeps people in poverty and enslavement.

    However, this motion being debated at Conference is to CHANGE the current obligation on parents not to take their child out of school. Conference is being asked to spend valuable time to agree that middle-class parents can take little Johnny out to learn a few words of Catalan at a pavement café. I’m sorry but you should be AGREEING with me, Matthew Huntbach, not castigating me.

  • Sarah Olney 4th Sep ’15 – 12:51pm………….. I think our argument should be that discretion about time away from school should be restored to headteachers, as being the best placed person to decide whether the child will benefit………

    A parent with two children in different schools may well find that head a) allows it and head b) doesn’t….Such ideas can be a ‘dog’s dinner’….

  • “I cannot imagine that a school would ever prevent a pupil from having a day off to attend their mother’s funeral.”

    It’s simply nonesense. For one thing, a child (or anyone) whose mother has just died would not be going to School for a good few weeks – the whole family would be in shock and grieving. It’s not just about the day of the funeral. The School would be supportive to a gradual return and to helping the child manage their grief. They certainly would not want a grieving child to be in School,not least because it would be disruptive to normal school life and upsetting for everyone. The tabloids would have a field day.

  • Mathew Huntbach: so what happened when a student was too sick to attend a critical lab? Did they fail their degree too?

  • Matthew Huntbach ” One of the biggest problems I face is when students are dragged off by their parents to attend weddings and funerals on the other side of the world, and thus miss a week or two of teaching”

    In these cultures Family comes before everything. And weddings are fertile grounds for matchmaking. Sadly, that comes before education, especially for girls. And before you jump on me, Matthew, I deplore this. But then I missed scattering my father’s ashes in The Ganges, with the rest of my family, because I was on my year out. The time I would have missed could not have been regained and my presence was not necessary. My family understood this but sadly not all families feel as strongly about their children’s education as mine did.

  • @expats “A parent with two children in different schools may well find that head a) allows it and head b) doesn’t….Such ideas can be a ‘dog’s dinner’….”

    Having been in exactly that situation, I would still say that it is better to allow each school to determine their own approach to this issue than have a centralised policy.

  • As for, if I don’t get my way “I’d home school her’; most parents don’t have the option of ‘Home school’.

    Ah but remember, this is Superchild who never gets ill: ‘homeschooling’ for her probably means leaving her in a room with some advanced chemistry textbooks and a bunsen burner, then coming home to the three-course dinner she prepared after she was finished transmuting base metal into gold.

  • @Tsar Nicholas
    “There was a case of a boy being refused time off to attend his mother’s wedding. It is only a matter of time.”

    Really? Can you give any details?

    There was a widely reported story to that effect last year – which turned out to be completely untrue, as I mentioned in an earlier post. Perhaps Caron – who first mentioned these “reports” of children not being allowed to attend parents’ weddings and funerals – can give some sources, that’s if the evidence actually matters here.

    @Phyllis
    “Parents have ELEVEN weeks together for ‘quality’ time and yet Tim Farron does not think this is enough?”

    Every school I know gets thirteen weeks – six in the summer, two each at Easter and Christmas, and three half-term weeks.

    Thirteen weeks is a quarter of the year. I agree with you – Tim Farron is being ridiculous if he thinks 13 weeks holiday is not enough.

  • Stiil waiting for the evidence about weddings and funerals. Surely it can’t have been censored by the moderators ????

  • sally haynes-preece 4th Sep '15 - 5:21pm

    I can see rights and wrongs on both sides of this argument. I took my son out of primary school on one occasion for the last day of the summer term because it meant we could get a MUCH cheaper holiday. I think a lot depends on the age of the child, how many days are missed and why the absence is being requested. I DO think compassionate grounds requests are very different to holiday requests. But the structuring of terms does have a lot to answer for. Whatever the reasons for the current normal term times, it dates back to a different world and I do feel there needs to be some thinking about whether it is valid now. I know education experts feel the long summer break adversely affects children’s education because they slip backwards. Just because something has always been done one way does not mean it is the BEST way.

  • Richard Underhill 4th Sep '15 - 5:29pm

    Is there still is a quiet period after exams and before end of term?

  • Long summer holidays are only there to enable children to help with the harvest.

  • Are there no anarchists left in the ranks of the Liberal Democrats? The comments above suggest that the party consists almost entirely of people who believe that the state knows best. My belief is that this country needs less regimentation and more creativity; fewer conformists and more mavericks; young people who question received wisdoms; radicals, eccentrics, free thinkers; people with minds flexible enough to adapt to a rapidly changing world, something which the National Curriculum is incapable of providing.

  • TCO 4th Sep ’15 – 5:39pm
    Long summer holidays are only there to enable children to help with the harvest.

    That’s already been debunked on this thread by Bim above at 12:52. Do try to keep up 😉

    The things one learns on LDV! It’s an education in itself.

  • tonyhill 4th Sep ’15 – 6:06pm……………..Are there no anarchists left in the ranks of the Liberal Democrats? The comments above suggest that the party consists almost entirely of people who believe that the state knows best. My belief is that this country needs less regimentation and more creativity; fewer conformists and more mavericks; young people who question received wisdoms; radicals, eccentrics, free thinkers; people with minds flexible enough to adapt to a rapidly changing world, something which the National Curriculum is incapable of providing……….

    Before we start talking about creating ‘anarchists’ lets ensure that our children learn the ‘3 Rs’…When they are able to read the books, do the maths then we can ‘build a new world’……

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '15 - 1:40am

    David

    Mathew Huntbach: so what happened when a student was too sick to attend a critical lab? Did they fail their degree too?

    Yes. Why do you ask? Why do you think it would make a difference whatever the reason was for absence? It’s not a matter of deliberately punishing people by docking them marks, it’s just an observation: people who have a prolonged absence (more than missing just one lab) often do find it very hard or impossible to catch up, and it can be the start of a decline leading to failure in the degree.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '15 - 1:48am

    tonyhill

    Are there no anarchists left in the ranks of the Liberal Democrats? The comments above suggest that the party consists almost entirely of people who believe that the state knows best. My belief is that this country needs less regimentation and more creativity;

    Sorry, I am not “the state”. I am just someone who teaches a useful practical skill, computer programming. If people don’t want to learn it, then they don’t have to. I am simply stating what I observe about it. Yes, like many practical skills, like many CREATIVE skills, to get good at it you need a lot of practice. I have been doing this for 26 years, so I have picked up some experience in what works, in what sort of person does well and what sort of person does badly. Consider playing a musical instrument. How do you get good at it? By lots and lots of practice, playing the scales and that sort of thing. That’s the basis on which you learn the skills to be able to do it at a more advanced level and be truly creative. Would you condemn music teachers who say this as enemies of freedom and horrible people enforcing a nasty regimentation?

  • Just because something has always been done one way does not mean it is the BEST way

    Not necessarily, but it means you had better have a damn good reason for thinking of changing it…

    In this case, of course, changing the terms wouldn’t hep, as the pricing is simply a matter of supply and demand: demand is higher during school holidays, so of course prices go up. It’s nothing to do with when the holidays are; if all the schools were off in October, then prices would be high in October.

    The only way to spread the cost would be to spread the holidays, so one-fiftieth of the nations’ schools were off each week (we’ll let them all have Christmas and Easter week); but that would be an administrative nightmare, would not help parents with kids at more than one school at all, and would royally annoy people like me who deliberately go off when schools are in session because we hate children and don’t want our holidays spoiled by the presence of the mewling brats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Sep '15 - 2:08am

    Phyllis

    However, this motion being debated at Conference is to CHANGE the current obligation on parents not to take their child out of school. Conference is being asked to spend valuable time to agree that middle-class parents can take little Johnny out to learn a few words of Catalan at a pavement café.

    Yes, and I’m saying it’s an important issue that needs debating, in part because of the simplistic way of thinking shown by tonyhill, which it seems Tim Farron has been infected with a little as well. Sure, I understand that argument on the face of it, but the reality is that trendy arguments like that have been hugely damaging to children, their future prospects and hence their freedom.

    The reality is that good mental discipline, and a logical way of thinking that comes from study of technical subjects can help a lot in giving people the ability to think well, and hence to challenge assumptions and question received wisdom. Most computer scientists are mavericks and non-conformists and eccentrics who abhor regimentation. tonyhill has it so wrong, he really hasn’t a clue.

  • John Tilley 5th Sep '15 - 4:56am

    “….young people who question received wisdoms; radicals, eccentrics, free thinkers; people with minds flexible enough to adapt to a rapidly changing world, something which the National Curriculum is incapable of providing.”

    I am in the position of agreeing with both Matthew Huntbach and with tonyhill.

    Matthew knows from experience that some (especially those from less privileged backgrounds) will lose out if they miss classes.
    Whereas tonyhill recognises the appalling impact of the dreadful conformism of the “National Curriculum”.

    The Natinal Curriculum and the mindset that goes with it is the very opposite of Liberalism. I knew things had gone badly wrong in this country when Blair after lobbying from Greville Janner instituted a compulsory state festival into the school lives of every child at a state school. Along with this went compulsory lessons in one aspect of twentieth century history which must take precedence over every other history lesson.

    if any dictator does this sort of thing (replacing the teaching of history with an official state version of historical events) we in the Liberal Democrats naturally object. Yet we let it happen in schools in this country without a murmur.

  • Matthew, I am arguing against conformity and rigidity, not against education. As well as my main job I deal in second hand books and over the decades of reading into the subject I have been struck by how many writers have had unconventional educations, or periods of interrupted education(by illness mostly). Listening to “The Life Scientific” this seems true for many leading scientists as well. Having been involved with home education for many years and seen what happened to the children my daughter knew, two of them now professional classical musicians, another a mathematician, also gives me confidence that education does not have to consist of sitting in classrooms between the ages of five and eighteen. The argument is about whether a child missing a few days school occasionally damages their life chances: my “simplistic way of thinking”, based on 36 years of bringing up children, is that it doesn’t.

  • @ John Tilley

    Quite right…. and Gove/Cameron followed it up by trying to impose a very right wing view of history to do with the British Empire and the First World War – though it seems Cameron is now flip flopping around as much as Burnham more recently.

    As for Tim (who normally has my full and enthusiastic support), sorry, wrong issue, bad politics . It’s a trivial issue when there are so many more important domestic and international things to deal with.

    PS Still waiting for the evidence about weddings and funerals from the worthy author of the lead article. Beginning to ha’e me doots whether it will ever be forthcoming.. Fess up time, you know you’ll feel better if you do.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Sep '15 - 11:22am

    @ Tonyhill,
    I am sorry if this sounds snobbish to some, but I consider it realistic. Not all children who are taken out of schools during term time receive the richness of educational experience that people like your daughters and her friends have been given by their parents and families.

    If you are arguing against the school curriculum, I agree. But that is not the issue that Tim has raised. On this , he is already behind the curve. Jeremy Corbyn has already said that he wants every child to have the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and be able to act on stage and that we must allow creativity to flourish.

    Despite his own background Tim seems not to have thought this through. We give lip service to the notion that teachers are professionals, but I can think of no other profession that has its knowledge base challenged in the way that teachers have their knowledge of how to teach, or the necessary requirements for that learning to take place, challenged. When it comes to education, it seems that everyone is an expert except the ‘expert’. No wonder we are having to attract teachers from abroad. Some possibly from countries where it really is the Gradgrinds who rule the roost.

  • I also agree with John Tilley and Jayne Mansfield about the curriculum.

    I know liberal people like to challenge authority etc but I do think there should be more respect for teachers both by parents and children. Comments like ‘ well we can just homeschool them’ just undermines the skilled work that teachers do. It’s not just about lessons but about being part of a community and those summer games of rounders and trips out are all as valuable as learning the 3 Rs. Children grow up to be citizens who have to work hours that they may not want to work, but part of the discipline school teaches you is that you can’t always have what you would like.

    Taking Tim’s position to its logical conclusion, what about parents who work shifts or work weekends? They also miss out on quality time with their children, should schools have operate ‘ flexible ‘ weeks to accommodate those needs?? After all isn’t it just as ‘ authoritarian’ to be told by the State you have to send your child to school Mon- Friday?! It’s just tosh, I’m afraid.

  • I think parents (in fact everyone) should be allowed up to two weeks unpaid leave a year (or more!) so they can see more of their children, even when they are at uni. Time with the family is never wasted and more flexibility on this would be so great for those that want it. I also think the odd day off here and there for something very special (like a special birthday) is fine – say up to 3 days a year – but allowing pupils to go on holiday during term-time seems a bit of a luxury – and it could be disruptive of school life.

  • Perhaps those who, literally, can’t afford holidays abroad in, or out of, term time might find the amount of time given to such a flawed idea a bit strange….Such children are far more likely to be off-school helping a disabled relative than “ordering a meal in Spanish”….
    Sometimes the priorities of our party seem rather out of touch…

  • John Tilley 5th Sep '15 - 6:11pm

    David Raw

    Yes the Gove / Cameron version of history sounds like something out of a low grade theme park. More to do with indoctrination and propaganda than history. How telling that they were keen that history should stop in 1945.
    So children are indoctrinated to believe that the Empire was wonderful and that only Greville Janner’s Educational Trust is to be listened to. This Blairite diktaat gives our schools exactly the same educational disadvantages as Mr Putin imposes in Russia.

    Blair, the man responsible, is currently denyng trying to delay the Chilcot report . Perhaps he fears that history is catching up with him.

  • I’d propose a ‘contract’ between parents and school – If they demonstrate they are an active part of the child’ s learning, ensuring participation in all homework, punctuality when at school and maybe involvement in other parts of school life (open days orchestras, sports teams) then yeah, let that family have at least 5, rising to 10, days out of school during term times. Far more important that parents care about their child’s education than that the child is at school every single day

  • A Social Liberal 6th Sep '15 - 11:04pm

    John Tilley

    are you saying that Blair is able to delay a judges report, seriously?

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '15 - 10:58am

    tonyhill

    Having been involved with home education for many years and seen what happened to the children my daughter knew, two of them now professional classical musicians, another a mathematician, also gives me confidence that education does not have to consist of sitting in classrooms between the ages of five and eighteen.

    Sure, but are most people like you? One of the things I have had to struggle with during my lifetime is the realisation that most people are not like me, the acceptance that actually I am a bit weird or eccentric. Some of my youthful idealism came about because I hadn’t realised that. E.g., just because I enjoyed political meetings does not mean everyone enjoys them, so some of the ways I thought things could be run giving people “power over their own lives” fell down because most people have better things to do in their spare time than attend meetings.

    The problem I have here is over the message the “you can take the kids out whenever its suits you” policy sends out. The reality is that there are many parents who don’t understand education well, and so who would not realise the issues of concern over pulling their children out, and so would do it lightly and often.

    This is the point I am making over what I see in my university teaching. Sure, there are some students who can do it all through self-study, and so who can get away without regular attendance at scheduled lectures and labs. But there are many more who just think they can, but actually have a very naive attitude and “don’t know what they don’t know” so miss out on the crucial aspects because they have missed the guidance in that background. And there are even more who just use the line “attendance is not necessary to pass” just as an excuse not to work, thinking they can always catch up later. As a rough estimate, I’d put the ratio of these three groups as 1:3:6.

    So, you are in the 1 part of this 1:3:6 ratio, and putting out the message that the people in the 3 and 6 parts are not an issue because you can do it, so can they.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Sep '15 - 11:07am

    tonyhill

    Matthew, I am arguing against conformity and rigidity, not against education. As well as my main job I deal in second hand books and over the decades of reading into the subject I have been struck by how many writers have had unconventional educations, or periods of interrupted education (by illness mostly).

    So, what proportion of people whose lives were interrupted by illness went on to become famous writers? Should we be deliberately infecting children with disease on the grounds that this will turn them into famous writers?

    Sorry, but I have heard SO OFTEN the line “X didn’t study, and did really well, that mean you don’t have to study to do well, so don’t you tell me what to do” or words to those effect. Mostly those who say this fail. I don’t like seeing people who could have done well fail. Now they are paying for it directly, I certainly don’t like seeing young people not taking what they are paying for.

  • I have to agree with Matthew Hubtbach on this. It actually reminds me of a school friend of my daughter’s who sailed through her GCSEs with little to no work. When it came to ‘A’Levels she hadn’t gotten into the discipline of revising hard for exams. As a result, instead of studying Law at Durham (which she thought she had in the bag), she missed out on the grades and ended up at Northumbria!

  • Dr Gary Wilson 7th Sep '15 - 12:55pm

    I’m really torn on this one. As a parent of two school age children, trying to squeeze holidays during August can be very expensive. At the same time, depending on the age of the child and the timing of a holiday, lost school days can be crucial, eg., if in a year with key testing. Responsible parents would carefully consider time taken off, less repsonsible parents may not give it a second thought regardless of when and for how long. There is probably a balance which can be struck somewhere – Tim’s proposal for a 10 day maximum may be part of this, but perhaps key times of the year (or key years in a child’s schooling – GCSE years, for example) could be off limits. It might also help if we went back to longer school days – if pupils finished at 4pm instead of 3.15, over a year that would compensate for a week taken off for a family holiday.

    As for points made about university students, I too am a lecturer. HE students are autonomous adults and make their own choices in this regard, and that is a separate matter altogether. Many universities have no formal attendance policy and/or lack sanctions to enforce one.

  • lorraine bailey 1st Apr '16 - 8:58pm

    I have just taken my kids out of school to go to Florida.Our family always goes in March as my husband is a landscaper and struggles to get the time off in the summer as he is too busy.People think we take them out to save money which it undoubtably does but I feel people need to know that queues at Disney go from 30minutes if you go in term time to possibly up to 205 minutes in school holidays which is crazy and totally unreasonable and you cannot expect young children to stand in queues that big.I don’t think people realise this side of why parents want to go on holiday in term time.

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