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Thursday, 6 April 2017

TAKING STUDENTS OUT OF SCHOOL





There is an interesting article in the UK's Daily Telegraph, which you can read here. The image shown above is from the same article. It deals with an issue which has beset secondary education in the UK since Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister. It was on his watch that penalties were first imposed on parents taking their children out of school for holidays. At first sight, such a restriction seems eminently sensible.

However, the issue is not a simple one. Most British schools close in late July and re-open in early September. Going on a summer holiday at this time is expensive - it is peak season for air tickets, hotels and holiday resorts, so prices rise considerably at this time. Taking young children to, say, Disney World in March could save a family anything from 33-50% in comparison with August. This is also true in December and January. Flight tickets over the Christmas and New Year period, for example, may be double what they are earlier or later, yet UK schools only close for about 15 days at this time.

What schools and parents both have to consider is whether the loss in learning time is compensated for in the travelling experience and of seeing other countries, cultures and lifestyles. I must admit that I get a terrific, vicarious pleasure from reading the Facebook posts of ex-KY students who report on their trips around Europe and beyond, usually accompanied by some wonderful and evocative photographs.

Students at our college get plenty of holidays. Not only do we get the long breaks between semesters, but also mid-semester breaks, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, etc. Nonetheless, I often do get requests from parents to take their children off campus at other times of the year. These may be for short periods, such as to attend a family wedding, or for longer ones such as a week or even a fortnight's holiday overseas. In such cases, I have to make a value judgment. I check on the child's academic, attendance and disciplinary history before making a decision, case by case. Obviously, there are certain times when it is absolutely essential for students to remain on campus. CIE examinations and the trial exams that are going on at present are the best examples. Equally, for in-house KY exams attendance is mandatory.

Please understand that I am not referring to unavoidable absence such as illness or compassionate leave because of bereavement - I am talking about fun stuff; leisure or holiday activities in school time. Long time readers of this blog will know I have often stated that every lesson at KY is important - time is our biggest enemy. And all times are important - we mustn't forget that there are essential activities here that go beyond AS and A2 study. I'm thinking, for example, of Induction Week for new 24-month students in July, and 18-month students in January. This is our equivalent of Freshers' Week at University. So much information about the college, about studying here, about knowing what you can and can't do and perhaps most importantly, settling in and finding your way around, is imparted at this time. Students who miss even part of it, will be at a distinct disadvantage.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is please think carefully before asking to withdraw your son or daughter from KY during the working semesters. I will be glad to consider such requests, but don't be surprised if I question the wisdom of your doing so.

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