Holidays vs The Classroom

There is a lot of talk about the fines you get for taking your child out of school when the absence is unauthorised – once they’re over 5, it’s £60 per parent, per day – which is a lot of money. Book FHR have a campaign at the moment, Is Travel Education? which covers the difference between taking your child out of school or not. Is there a solution? They’ve asked some of us bloggers to share our experiences, and this is ours.

We’ve only taken H out of school once, although she was still four – so we didn’t get fined. (it was when she watched Topsy & Tim being filmed). I agonised over the decision – it was a fantastic opportunity, and one we would never get again. The educational element of it was something I knew she’d find interesting (as she thinks Topsy & Tim are her friends – or at least, did two years ago). Of course, as expected it was unauthorised at school despite her teacher and teaching assistant both thinking it was a fabulous opportunity and telling us to have fun – but it’s not their decision.

Fast forward, we’re in Year 2 and she’s at the age she could be fined, and I can’t imagine taking her out of school. I’ve turned down so many fabulous blogging opportunities because it would involve taking time out of school. (I’d also need to use annual leave which is a big factor)

Amsterdam
Amsterdam

Which takes us to this summer. Somehow, after careful planning, we managed to find holidays in school holiday time which have been affordable – breaks in Cornwall and The Netherlands. Would I book a holiday during school time? No. But people do. That’s their choice, and indeed, there have been times when H’s classmates have all said “noo, she’s gone on holiday!” when the teacher has said the child is poorly at registration. I can’t lie. I’d rather have the absence marked as unauthorised, as I feel it sets a bad example by lying – but I can understand why people do it.

This summer we’ve done plenty of educational activities while we’ve been away. In Cornwall we visited the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Pendennis Castle, the Eden Project which all had educational aspects. When we went to The Netherlands we visited the Dutch Resistance Museum Junior which was very interesting and educational, as well as wandering around the streets, H discovering what it was like in mainland Europe.

Caversham Wildlife Wombat
Stroking a wombat at Caversham Wildlife Park, Australia

When we’ve visited Australia, we’ve had to do it over the summer holidays, which also happens to be Australia’s winter – so the schools are back and it’s quiet. We even found cheap flights which helped a lot via a flight tracker. Last year the weather was warmer in Australia than London!

Pendennis Castle
Pendennis Castle, Cornwall

So what has H learnt this summer? She has learnt that seals can be looked after well when they’re found poorly. Castles can be really awkward to climb up, but interesting to pretend you’re really living in (and it’s her topic at school this term). She learnt that children were affected by the war in the Netherlands in different ways, and remembers facts about the children – not quite getting her head around the fact they don’t have chocolate just like that, like she does – that they’re hidden in the floorboards for Christmas.

Dutch Resistance Museum - hidden Chocolate
Dutch Resistance Museum Junior – hidden Chocolate in the floorboards

She has learnt that in the Netherlands they speak a different language, and has some new words she has been taught (yes, no, thankyou). She knows bees are important. She has learnt how to bodyboard at the beach. She has crossed on a causeway to an island to explore around it (St. Michaels Mount). She has visited Stonehenge again and enjoyed it this time.

stonehenge 2015

She has travelled by car, boat, plane, train, tram, bus, on foot.

Utrecht canal boat trip
Utrecht canal boat trip

Now I know that school holidays are at a different time in mainland Europe, I’m thinking about more European breaks – if only for things being quieter. That or you find the places people don’t go to, and make the most of them (there were some fabulous National Trust beaches in Cornwall which were so quiet). So while I’m not a fan of being fined for taking time out of school, careful planning can mean you get a cheap break anyway.

This post has been written in collaboration with Book FHR

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