My kids have a far-from-perfect attendance record at school. There have been days when I could have dosed them up on Panadol and shoved them out the door, but I let them sit and sniffle on the couch instead. And then there was the time I got permission from their teachers to take them away during term time for a family event interstate (and we all ended up getting gastro and not leaving home anyway).
But I’ve never considered giving my kids the day off school on their birthday. To be honest, they’ve never asked me to.
Apparently, though, it’s a thing.
Sharyn O’Neill, the director-general of the WA Department of Education, knows all about it.
“I just had a parent saying to me the other day when I was in the shops, and it was their child’s birthday, and so they had their birthday off,” she told a parliamentary enquiry last month.
“That is not an unusual occurrence.
“It is the law… and the onus is actually on the parent or the caregiver to get the child to school.”
Not an unusual occurrence? I conducted an extensive survey (okay, I asked a bunch of my friends) and I found out that O’Neill is right.
“I gave my daughter the day off for her 16th so we could go get her Ls,” one friend told me, “and I have leave booked for the day of my stepson’s 16th for the same reason.”
Another friend explained that she got divorced when her children were young, and court orders said they had to see their father from 4-8pm on their birthday.
“If they went to school, when was I going to see them for more than 30 minutes on their birthday?” she asked. “We did lunch and went to the playground or whatever. One year we all had a wag and went to Sea World. Such a fabulous memory still!”
A dad-of-two told me that if his kids wanted the day off school, he let them have it.
“I feel that to a kid, birthdays are really important,” he explained. “It’s a day that’s all about them.
“While I understand my responsibilities and respect the fact that I’m obliged to send my kids to school, I also feel a lot of bullshit goes down in the education system, and missing a day a year for their birthday isn’t a big deal.”
A teacher friend told me some of the kids at her school did it.
“It’s okay, I think, especially if the parents want to take them somewhere special or family and friends are visiting,” she said.
Another friend who works at a small country school said it was definitely “a thing”.
“I think almost all of our families allow their kids to have the day off if it’s their birthday. We can predict who will be away according to the date.”
Of course, there are plenty of parents out there who wouldn’t dream of it.
“God no!” groaned one mum. “I want mine to go to school on Christmas Day as well!”
What do you think about kids being given the day off school on their birthday? Let us know in the comments!
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