The blanket ban on term time holidays

Helen Weedon says teachers should be able to use their own judgement on term time leave.

With councils across Wales imposing blanket bans on term time absence, parents are up in arms! “Why should little Johnny miss out on his vastly expensive trip to Disneyland this year?” Oh, but we wanted to cruise along the Amalfi Coast all term!”

For years, even decades teachers have struggled in classes where half of them disappear for a lengthy holiday and they have been powerless to stop it and now all of a sudden they have been handed a dream ticket, the chance to say “sorry there is nothing I can do!” And if the parents ignore them, they get slapped with a great big fine and all is well with the world. I mean, if they can afford to go to Florida or skiing for two weeks in term time, perhaps in the summer they can do what the rest of us do and get a little caravan in Tenby or somewhere similar?

Mind you, I suppose that means us mere mortals who cannot afford to jet off to far flung and exotic places can no longer afford that caravan in Tenby in term time, not with the £60 fine per child per parent per break…I have three so that would be £360 on top of the cost of the holiday! For those who can afford to go abroad, even if that means going in term time, surely that gives those children a whole load of additional experiences they cannot get in their own country. Experiencing other cultures and languages is extremely educational and cannot be ignored. Not to mention that, far from being relieved with this “dream ticket”, the teachers are for the most part against the ban.

In actual fact there are a vast array of reasons why people cannot go on holiday during the school holidays. There seems to be too much emphasis put on foreign holidays and cost. For some it is simply the choice between the cheapest holiday possible in the UK or no holiday at all. For others, cost doesn’t even come into it. I’ve heard from people in retail, the tourist industry, nurses, and others, all of whom simply cannot get the time off work during holidays, especially where others also have children and that time needs to be covered. For those people, if they don’t take their children out of school during term time, exactly when do they get quality family time?

I’ve also heard from others, such as one lady with an autistic son. For her to take him on holidays during the six week would have a disastrous affect all round. Another lady was hoping to take her daughter with cerebral palsy to meet others with the same condition at a charity event. However, this means taking her other two children out of school for the day and it means she is currently facing a huge dilemma. Something like that seems so important and life-enhancing even for her daughter, and her family, that surely no-one with any sort of compassion would refuse.

And that’s the problem. The powers that be have just picked up a gigantic sledge hammer to crack the walnut of term time absence. I’ll admit that some parents probably do not care enough about their child’s education, some kids miss far too much school, and generally those same kids probably have a lower attainment too. But this blanket ban makes everyone else suffer and it takes away the opportunity for the head teacher to act with sense and compassion, which for the most part in my experience they want to do. I am not looking for some carte blanche here, the headteachers can still refuse but at least we could work with them, explain the reason for the absence, and they can make a decision based on each individual request.

I’m particularly fortunate that my kids go to a great school with supportive staff and are very rarely absent, but even if I had a real need to take my kids out of school for just one day, they are not allowed to authorize it, no matter what. How can that make sense?

Helen Weedon is a freelance PR consultant and mother of three school age children. She is based in Ceredigion and has been actively working with a campaign to reverse the blanket ban on term time holidays.

8 thoughts on “The blanket ban on term time holidays

  1. Hi, I am one of the parents where my husband has set hoildays. We cannot chose to hoilday when we would like to. My children go to school every day (except if they are really I’ll) we both work shifts and juggle child care between us , so for us a family hoilday is important time together. I Would take school work to do on holiday so they don’t miss out on what they would be doing that week. If they did fetch in a sixty pound fine for each day, and each child then we would be unable to go on a family holiday. What happens to the parents that chose to home school their children, do they get a fine? . Don’t mind if IWA contact me.

  2. You have raised some very important points Helen and as a parent too, I sometimes truly despair at the lunacy of doing things the ‘Welsh Way’ in education and perhaps elsewhere and in the process ignoring and disregarding the good practices from other parts of the UK.

    Taking kids out of school during the term time can be a problem and is well documented but circumstances vary and any blanket ban is a shear nonsense as exposed in England and not all that long ago.

    Fortunately for English kids and their parents the English education system can be challenged and is responsive to common sense as we have seen it many times in the recent past by parents challenging the daft and ill considered decisions including legislative provisions and having them overturned.

    In Wales once the ‘Welsh Way’ is stamped and duly endorsed by the authorities, the system then goes into overdrive to maintain and protect its dictate and then becomes totally disinterested in any other issue including any damage that this process may inflict on children including their parents.

    As Wales has a devolved education and is strictly under control of the Welsh Government a number of subtle changes have been made within the Education Wales Act to impose the will of the state and especially the ‘Bilingual Policies’ as introduced into the Welsh Education and many parents are totally oblivious what some of the provisions mean and the intent behind them.

    Not trying to deflect from your key topic Helen but the following is relevant to the issues you have raised:

    The Welsh Way of Governing education is incredibly ‘Democratic’ as Welsh Government after putting in place legislative provisions and on their terms then sub-devolves responsibilities for the said measures to the Local Education Authorities (LEA’s) – Then this ‘Democracy’ is further sublet by the LEA’s to the individual schools under their domain and to the so called ‘School Governance System’.

    When things ‘Go Wrong’ as it may be perceived by individual parents the ‘Complaints procedure’ becomes a ‘Closed Loop’ – First avenue is to complain to the Head teacher and if not resolved parents then can take the issue to the school Governors and that’s is where the ‘Book Stops’ (Doors closed for going back to LEA’s and no going back to Welsh Government either)!

    What most Welsh parents do not realise is that the LEA’s have considerable say of who is appointed on School Governance panels and in many instances LEA appointed governors are there for ‘political reasons’ and nothing to do with enhancing the education (Think about it in the context of ‘Bilingual nation)!

    England has changed its School Governance provisions to make them robust and more parents focused but in Wales the Welsh version is weak, vague and easily manipulated by the Authorities and especially the LEA’s with an agenda!

    So if Welsh LEA’s impose the blanket ban on kids having holidays in term time, parents are then exposed to huge fines should they choose to go against the ‘System’ and have no fair way of dealing or challenging the Welsh authorities who have taken away that right under the new Welsh Democracy Definitions’!!??

    Finally the following links may be of interest:


    Jacques Protic

  3. Sandra Thomas, I made a mistake in the fees initially, so sorry about that. As you can see in the corrected version, it is actually £60 per child per break per parent, so regardless of the length, it should be £120 for one child.

  4. Hmmm … Not sure why any intelligent person would appeal to the ‘Blackshirt Mail’ as a source. Nevertheless, there are some good points here. A question arising from them is this: what is the legal basis of this blanket ban? Or, to put it another way, do the perpertrators of this purported ban (have to stop this alliteration, for fear of starting to sound like Master Mart) in fact have the power to impose it, or is it just something they’ve made up?

  5. Tim Saunders, Whatever the Daily Mail is, its a simple fact that it happens to be the most popular paper in Wales – In other words the Daily Mail is the Welsh National Newspaper. Personally I would not judge or question anyone what media they follow or their reason for it!?

  6. This is yet another example of a worrying general trend, using good laws for bad purposes. In this case a law with the laudable objective of preventing truancy is being abused as part of a cynical revenue-raising exercise.

    In any case, being honest, probably at least 95% of the time most of us spent sat bored staring at a blackboard were basically wasted, the facts we learned there long forgotten because they proved irrelevant, while family holidays in interesting places, and the things we learned on them, proved useful and remain fresh in the mind to this day.

    Most important education takes place outside school hours and school buildings. The best teachers understand that.

  7. i am just wondering if there is any subject on earth, however remote, which Jacques Protic cannot twist to make the occasion for a diatribe against Welsh language education. However, he frequently relieves the boredom with a touch of comedy, such as insisting he favours the preservation of the Welsh language, so long as no-one anywhere, ever does anything to promote it. Hysterical.

  8. Tredwyn – That’s Easy as everything WG does especially in education is Welsh Language related and my comment is not off topic as any disagreements between parents and schools let’s say on school absence is contained within the narrow field of school governance.

    Then if you look at the anglicised parts of North Wales you’ll find that most English Medium primary schools are staffed by 100% Welsh speaking teachers and again relevant if there is, lets say animosity between some parents and school their children are in….

    When LEA is asked, how is this possible? They always come back with a standard reply: ‘Nothing to do with us as teacher appointments are strictly down to School Governors’ (But they never mention that most of school governors are appointed by them (In other words: Political appointees’ with an agenda, hence the said reference in my earlier comment)!

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