Did you know there is a total of three months that kids don’t attend school? That’s a quarter of the year on holidays.
However, many parents still make the decision to take their children out of school during the term to for vacations. This happens for a number of reasons such as cheaper travel, work commitments and seasonal factors.
However, it does raise the question: Is it ok to take kids out of school for holidays?
The response is a mixed one.
Education in Australia is compulsory for children over the age of six. However, different states have slightly different policies on taking children out of school for holidays.
For example, Queensland strongly deters absenteeism through its “Every Day Counts” program. Children having more than 10 days away from school require an exemption from the Principal. Victoria and Western Australia work in pretty much the same way.
NSW also have an exception policy, however holidays and travel are specifically mentioned as not qualifying as an authorised absence.
Tasmania has recently changed its education act to reflect a similar stance. Sickness or incapacity are the only acceptable reasons for not attending school and holidays will be recorded as “unauthorised absences”. This will happen even if parents have communicated with the school.
Conversely, the Attendance at ACT Public Schools Procedure actually lists “sanctioned extended absence in relation to children of travelling families” as a reasonable excuse for child absence from school.
The Northern Territory also have an “Every Day Counts” strategy with a strong focus on encouraging attendance.
Overall, it seems the focus of attendance policies for public education in most states is on unexplained absences and preventing truancy. Differing approaches such as fines, Truancy Officers and family conferences are used to deal with extended or reoccurring absences.
However, it would seem that with prior notification and communication with the school, a period of leave for holidays would be accepted in most states.
Then there is the debate over whether students are disadvantaged by being taken out of school for holidays. In a QLD Education paper on School Attendance a correlation between attendance rates and NAPLAN scores is presented, however it is acknowledged that there is a complex dynamic at play here.
Interestingly, in this paper attendance rates analysed show that absences due to holidays were most prevalent in the last week of terms, indicating parents capitalise on the perceived lower academic load for students just prior to gazetted school holidays.
There is also the pertinent argument that children may very well benefit more from a family holiday than the time otherwise spent at school. This is a very subjective statement of course, and entirely dependent on the nature of the holiday.
If a family were traveling overseas and the child was to be immersed in a rich, cultural experience, then yes this is probably true. If the child is going to spend a week sitting on grandma’s couch in the suburbs watching TV, the benefits are less likely.
Ultimately it is your decision as a parent whether you remove your child from school for the purpose of a holiday. However, to minimise disruption to your child’s education and any negative ramifications from the school, it’s best to communicate your intentions to the school and check if there is any important work your child will be missing out on during their time away.
Would you take your child out of school for holidays?