by KATE HUNTER
Dear Mrs Sheehan,
Just to let you know that Annabel and Sally will be absent from school Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. We are taking the children on a study trip, exploring alpine environments and communities which we believe will be of enormous benefit to their intellectual, physical and social development.
Seriously? Who am I kidding?
Dear Mrs Sheehan,
Annabel and Sally will miss three days of school next week because we are going skiing. It’s a travel-writing gig, only available outside school hols, and the snow is fab. I’ll make sure they do some maths. Hopefully.
Well. It turns out my children are part of the ‘New Absentee’ class. Apparently this a growing group of kids whose parents pull them out of school to take advantage of cheap holiday fares. There are also kids who get days off for haircuts, birthdays and visits from Aunty Suzanne. Educators aren’t happy about it. Here’s an edited version of the story from news.com.au:
CHILDREN are missing alarming amounts of school as parents take advantage of cheaper overseas holidays and let them stay home on their birthday or to go shopping.
Principals say parents are increasingly pulling their kids out of school for up to six weeks for overseas trips because airfares are cheaper outside school holidays, but it’s having a negative impact on their learning.
Public Schools Principal forum chairperson Cheryl McBride said a birthday was no excuse to miss class.
She said overseas holidays were fuelling absenteeism. “There is the frustrating issue of children going on long holidays with mum and dad and missing significant slabs of school,” she said.
“I really commiserate with parents who say I can only get the cheapest airfare out of school holidays, but need to go home and visit family. But there are some families who want to take kids away for six or seven weeks every year and then come to school and complain that kids are not achieving as well as they should.”
Forbes High School principal David Harris said children miss school for reasons unheard of 20 years ago. “Reasons like celebrating their birthday or sibling’s birthday, stayed up too late watching TV, going shopping for clothes, extended long weekend, non-participation in sports carnival or special school events,” he wrote in a news- letter to parents.
He said children miss an average of 12-15 days a year with parent-condoned absenteeism highest among young primary aged children.
Sydney University research fellow Andrew Martin said school absenteeism can have a detrimental effect on learning.
“The amounts of time children are involved in instruction and lessons and learning does have a significant relationship with achievement.” he said.
“Shopping days, an aunty coming over and late nights have no educational yield.”
Teachers Federation deputy president Gary Zadkovich said children should only miss school if they are unwell or have an important family issue.
‘We believe absence from school should be a result of valid reasons to do with illness, important family issues or concerns but some of those reasons they are not supportable,” he said. “We place a high value premium on providing high quality teaching and learning for our students and we hope and expect that parents will support us in that endeavour.”
The top 5 excuses for days off (when kids aren’t sick):
1) Travel is cheaper outside of school holidays.
2) It’s their birthday or their sibling’s birthday.
3) They went clothes shopping.
4) They stayed up late watching TV the night before.
5) They don’t want to participate in a sports carnival.
I don’t have a problem – obviously – taking my kids out of school to go on a family holiday. Especially if it’s free. They’re still in primary school, on top of their work and rarely miss school because of illness (I’m touching every bit of wood I can reach). I’d never give them a day off for shopping, a haircut or to recover from a late night (?!) And I’m ruthless about participation in school events, even if they LOATHE the swimming carnival and come last in everything.
Kate Hunter is an advertising copywriter with over 20 years experience and one Gruen Transfer appearance to her name. Kate is also the author of the Mosquito Advertising series of novels. You can buy them here.
Does this make me hypocritical or normal? Where do you stand on days off school for healthy kids?