Things are really heating up in the UK over term time absence and unauthorised days off, so much so that parents are getting threatened with court summons, fines and in the worse cases jail time if their children take any time off.
It could be argued that every parent should have the right to take their children out of school, to educate them in ways that mainstream education does not. Hands on activities, holidays and traveling the world can offer just as important an education to a child as schooling does.
But this fixation on attendance over education has taken a dark twist as Conservative MP Nick Gibb has shown a complete lack of compassion saying that taking time for a child to grieve the death of a loved one is not a good enough reason to take your child out of school.
While speaking on radio 4’s today programme Nick Gibb has said “If it’s something like a funeral or something, then the head teacher would be able to give permission to attend the funeral, but not to have an extended holiday on the back of that funeral or other compassionate circumstances.”
He has said that taking just a week off during term time has the ability to impact your child’s GCSE grades (the British equivalent of SAT or ACT tests) and that fewer children have been absent as a result of these tough new rules on days off.
Gibb also said: “We tightened the rules, the rules have always been the case that you should not take time out of terms to go on holiday, but there was an impression given that every parent was entitled to two weeks leave to take a child on holiday.”
I think there is a deeper issue than just these misguided and inconsiderate comments and that is the question of if our current education system is even effective. The fact is we are currently using an education system that is geared towards the 9 to 5, factory line culture and now more than ever people are moving towards creative work and careers, so do GCSE results even matter?
With Cambridge University (the number 1 university in the country) saying on their application form-
“With the exception of those [applying] for Medicine and Veterinary Medicine… there are no GCSE requirements for entry to Cambridge and no minimum number of A* grades required for any of our courses.”
And also Ernest and Young one of the biggest recruitment agencies in the world having announced it will be removing the degree classification from its entry criteria. Saying that there is “no evidence” success at university means you will achieve later in life
Why are we putting so much pressure on children and parents alike to try and produce results in something that has little impact (other than those that society enforces) on our lives?
Research has actually shown that one of the defining factors of how successful you will be in terms of earnings is how wealthy your family are, meaning if you are from a wealthy family and you perform poorly academically, you are more likely to earn more than someone who performs well academically and comes from a poor background.
MP Nick Gibb has also said that 500,000 fewer school days were missed as a result of these new rules, but who really cares when you take a look at the facts and realise that school education is not the only way to proceed in life.
So many artists, musicians, sports stars, scientists and creatives are being lost as a result of this fixation on formal education. Certain children are growing up feeling inferior, as if they are somehow stupid because they do not fit inside the box society puts them in and I personally think this is something that needs to be changed.
Ken Robinson is a pioneer in changing the current paradigms of education; if you haven’t seen this talk you should check it out for more information on what actually works in the current system and what we can do to start to rebuild.
A spokesperson for Mr Gibb said: “He was not suggesting that grieving children would not be allowed to take extra days off. Of course there may be cases where a child may need to take more days off for compassionate reasons. However, this is entirely at the discretion of the school/head.”
To which I say why? Why is there legislation in place that allows a teacher, if they deem it okay to deny a child time to grieve? Why can’t we take our children out of school for as long as we deem necessary should an opportunity for them come up? Why is there such a fixation on fitting in with the paradigms that are making so many people so unhappy? Let me know what you think by leaving me a comment below!