While lucky enough to be sitting on a sun lounger in the Caribbean enjoying a bit of sun, to cheat the end of the British winter, it seems sadly the teacher in me just won't switch off. I find my self wondering why the children currently playing in the pool infront of me are not at school? British, German, French, American, Canadian - whatever their nationality, surely the school holidays have yet to arrive?
Is it, as often quoted, the fault of the holiday companies who inflate prices in the school holidays? Seems doubtful in this case when they are in St Lucia in peak season and the UK school summer holidays are indeed a cheaper time to visit.
Seems more likely that there is a culture of parents seeing school term dates as flexible, according to individual work and family comitments, with litle thought for the extra work created for teachers in supporting the child with 'catching up' upon their return. Un-authorised absence creates a black mark for the school and in times of league tables and inspection reports, such factors are important. What sort of message are we giving our children - that it is ok to take time off when you please without consideration for work comitments?
Would parents have the same view if they were all paying for their children's education? In my experience of working in independent schools, probably no, since these parents, on the whole, tend to take term dates seriously.
What I find even more irritating is that I don't see any of the children reading a book or doing anything that could remotely be deemed as school work to compensate. I do believe that education stretches beyond the classroom and parents have a responsibility to supplement the curriculum studied at school with additional experiences to boost confidence, knowledge and life-skills. Family holidays of course have benefit through spending quality time together. However, if parents must do this in the term-time, how about expecting children to do some work while they are away?
Set them a 'holiday project' to research the country they are visiting and learn about its culture, history and geography, adding pictures of places visited. They could write a blog about their holiday or make a presentation to family when they return. Set a holiday reading target and encourage them to write book reviews or discuss the story with you over dinner. Use foreign currencies to practice maths and encourage them to use other than their native language to communicate with hotel staff or in restaurants etc.
Whatever creative ideas you can come up with, encourage them to understand that though on holiday, they also need to spend time learning new skills and strengthening their curriculum knowledge, not just listening to their iPod or playing computer games.
Seeing it more as a sabbatical from work, rather than a holiday makes it mildly more justifiable. Though in my opinion, parents should think twice before doing it at all!