Extended family holidays – an opportunity or a threat to learning?

Last week I was engaged in my school’s peer review process and we tossed around a question on extended student absence from school for family travel purposes.

You see extended family holidays are close to the number one reason why young people miss school at my school. Just last week I signed over 15 approvals for extended absence in the next few months bringing the total so far this year to just over 60 or 10% of my entire student population.

This is a contentious issue at my school for its been suggested that teachers are constantly  revising missed lessons with these students thereby taking time away from perhaps extending those students at school. Maybe they are? I certainly have encouraged teachers to record the lessons learning intention along with any worked examples in a folder or large display book so they can refer back to the learning for those present or otherwise.

Let’s not kid our selves either when parents ask for work to take along with them – we usually provided copied practice sheets from previous lesson topics (it’s not much use providing practice tasks if they miss the instruction and scaffolded peer interaction during a lesson).

I read in the Guardian where they have just taken ‘this discretion of headteachers in England to approve absences in “special circumstances” ‘ like family holidays.

One cannot dismiss the rich learning experiences young people might have on extended family holidays which are usually travel related. I’m thinking about turning this issue around and saying to parents as their young people’s first teachers what might you do to make the holiday an enriching learning experience for their children?

You might be surprised by the answers – for there are many – if overseas money and exchange rates, historical sites perhaps with some research before or after the experience and the list goes on.

I am now asking parents to give an artefact from their travels to the school which will be displayed along with a short written piece from the child in our living museum. In this way the display along with a large map with destinations marked can be a learning opportunity for all the other children at school. Parents have been very positive to the ideas so far.

Are you facing similar issues – do you have any other ideas?

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