Working with the Enemy

I have a confession to make. I have taken my children out of school for educational reasons. Personally I’d never do it just ‘to go on a holiday’, especially not to Disneyland (which they’d hate anyway). Even though we have family overseas and we pay painfully over the odds for going to see them a few times a year, if they’re in school, they really should be in school, unless there’s a very good reason. But we did take them out for six months to Road School them – and before anyone threatens me with high court action, they were off roll at the time. Did we do a bad thing? Or did we do a totally brilliant and lifetime memory making thing? Only you can decide and it’s too late for me to worry about it, anyway. My problem with today’s high court ruling on term time absence is not that it is going to stop me taking holidays when I want to, because I don’t. It is that the government has found another way of making the system more difficult for some people than it is for others, and their policy will impact on those who can least afford it, yet again.

If you have very little money, or a particularly fine-prone local authority, then you won’t want to risk taking any time off during the term, whatever your personal circumstances. (Single parent, forces family, someone who has to work every August because that’s when the tourists arrive in your area, your personal circumstances have ceased to matter.) Your children may never go overseas, which is very “Brexit means Brexit” of our Government. However, if you can shrug off a £60 fine, if you are willing to lie to your children’s school, or if you can afford to go to a private one, then you’ve just been incentivised to say ‘what the hell, I’ll do it anyway’. I’ve seen websites today that suggest parents might be asked to provide a death certificate, in order to have the right to go to a family funeral. And the head teacher of your children’s school has been tasked to be the final arbiter of whether you are deserving enough of not having to be there. Their Ofsted result depends on the way you behave. Talk about the law of unintended consequences. Insisting that ‘parents are obedient’ is no way to run an education system, if you value parent partnerships.

For the last eight years, I have helped to run my local preschool setting. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you are probably bored of me going on about it by now. I started there as a parent, but I stayed on, and I have now committed hours and hours and hours of my free time to helping a small part of the education system thrive and survive. During those eight years, I’ve had to work with our parents. Not in an ‘ask their opinions occasionally’ way, but in a ‘you are running this setting and we need you to do these things because they are legal requirements’ kind of way. The parents who have helped me have given up their free time, just like thousands of governors and PTAs do, all around the country, every single day of the week. During this time, I’ve also run a school magazine club, and I’ve watched my parent friends do their bit to be supportive, in all kinds of ways. Yes, some parents really don’t care about their children’s education, and I know that is painful, but most of us really do. So, please don’t let the Government make you think that you are working with the enemy, because we are not the ones that you need to attack.

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2 Responses to Working with the Enemy

  1. Tim AK says:

    I’ve been rather taken aback by some of the criticism of parents who take their kids out of school from some in education.
    I do value my children’s education. We’ve read thousands of books together in their pre-school years and are hugely supportive of the pre-school/schools they attend. Like you my wife has been on the nursery committee (for 3 years so far) and gives up hours of her time for the cause. Between us we’ve attended every school event, I’ve read in the classroom, manned stalls at the fetes and baked many a cake for the, seemingly bi-weekly, cake sales.
    However this June we are going to miss 3 days of school for a holiday. We are going to stay with friends in Germany. The flights for Saturday-Saturday are £850 more than Wednesday-Wednesday. We’ll be exploring the Romantic Road in Bavaria, the money saved on the flights basically pays for the entire trip. And I’m sure 3 days of school will not an education ruin. After all the friends we are staying with are missing two years of the UK education system whilst living there.
    Now the headteacher will send me a stroppy letter and I’ll be fined by the council and called a “bad parent” by Michael Wilshaw. I know it isn’t the school’s fault (and privately they’ll just say enjoy the holiday) but it does put my back up.
    Education is a partnership. I won’t hand my children over and wash my hands of it, and I will have an opinion on what and how they are asked to learn. My kids learned more about Geography/History on our holiday to Rome last year than they would in a classroom. We are massively lucky to have the money/health to do this, and I know not everyone can, so we are going to make the most of it even if it gets us criminalised!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Partnership, Obedience and Trust | Early Years: Nick

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