The current hot educational debate in the UK centres around the legal prosecution that families may face if they take their child out of school during term time for a holiday. This is not simply about truancy (a real issue that does need dealing with…) but focuses on families that take their child(ren) out to enjoy an annual family holiday.
As a parent and a teacher I find the arguments in favour of this prosecution quite weak. Firstly, let’s ignore the disruption caused by absent teachers, substitute teachers and strikes. These undoubtably cause upset to a child’s education. Let us focus on the obvious.
Schools, by their nature, have (on average) three lots of 12 weeks split up by three main holidays (Christmas, Easter, Summer). It’s a constant that everyone understands. Yes, it is not ideal (and many are calling for more, short breaks rather than three long ones…) but let’s use the current scheme as our basis.
It is easier for busy working parents (especially those on shift work) to dip in and out of that fixed timeline rather than schools trying to shift things. Most working parents do not have the luxury of selecting their ideal slot for a family holiday. You have to plan in advance and many employers will spread annual leave over a working year to avoid bottle necks.
Schools have cut back on the amount of external trips they do, mainly due to financial cutbacks and the rising demands of red tape (Risk Assessment) which makes teachers less inclined to get involved. So, if a parent has the opportunity to take their child(ren) to a foreign country, to experience another culture, to be immersed in another language, to see different Art and architecture….at no financial cost to the school, shouldn’t schools embrace that? Surely it is enriching a child’s education and directly feeds back into the curriculum in many areas. International or not, a family holiday helps bonding and cements the focus on quality family life.
The other real-world factor is that travel and accommodation is massively more expensive during those key holiday times. Tourist operators know that. A few weeks either side of the Christmas holiday, for example, can save a family thousands. I know when I’d go….
There has to be balance though. I think it’s correct that school Heads should be able to ask parents to give, say, a months notice if they want to withdraw a child for a holiday during term time. It shows premeditation and planning. Weddings, funerals etc. would need to be by negotiation if falling outside of a weekend or needing foreign travel. A Head must have the power to work in partnership with parents, not be driven by dictate on all issues. Common sense and trust by both parties is key and I would hope that no Head will refuse a genuine request for help to either celebrate a family wedding or mourn the passing of a loved one.
The last argument offered in favour of this is just ridiculous. The suggestion made is that a week off school could cause a child to reduce their GCSE grades by up to 25%. Really? Well, if teachers are deliberately putting 25% of the syllabus into one week, that the child happens to miss, then we have a far bigger issue than simply a family holiday. If a child breaks a leg and is off school for a few weeks a good teacher will ensure that homework is sent, textbooks are referred to and the internet used for that child to try and stay on top on what they might have missed. Surely the same can be done if a child legitimately gets away on a family holiday? So not a lot is missed in real terms.
It seems that the issue is more about Ofsted KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) that Heads are expected to ‘hit’ with regard to pupil attendance rather than the real need to forge partnerships and develop a sense of trust between schools and parents. All this action does, I suggest, is drive a wedge in between.
That can’t be good.
I have to state from the outset that I am no doctor, heat or sun specialist or any other ‘guru’ on sun related symptoms relating to humans. I am, however, a caring father of two lovely girls and I like to think that I have a modicum of common sense based on significant experience of living in hot climates.
In the northern hemisphere it is currently summer time and we are experiencing some rather unusually warm weather for these parts 35+C. Nice.
As a kid I grew up in Hong Kong, a place where the weather can be very hot (along with 100% humidity at times…) and my mum, dad, sister and I were frequently outside in the sun enjoying all the trappings of an expatriate lifestyle (pools, beaches, boats, sports…).
My mum was always careful to ensure that we had two things: skin protection and shade. There were no creams or ‘factor 50’ back in the late mid 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, just oils and after sun lotions. We used these extensively. But most importantly, for every half hour in the sun we were made (my sister and I) to sit in the shade for 20 minutes or so and have a cool drink. In that way, from a very early age, we understood the need to do ‘sun and shade’. On the occasions where we were out on a boat or something a T-shirt was often worn in addition to oils (although certain types of UV rays will still easily reach your skin through a cotton T-shirt…). We were taught to appreciate that the sun is good for you.
Fast forward 30 years and I have worked in schools in Europe that have experienced rather hot weather in the summer. But here is the grind. I would frequently receive emails (and see notices on walls) from well meaning colleagues and parents about ‘how’ we should ‘cover up’ to protect themselves from the sun. The common sense side seems to frequently go out of the window and we create by default a culture of ‘sun is bad’. Let me explain.
The four times I have seen someone faint from the heat (two adults and two teenagers) was because they were wearing inappropriate hats; too tightly adjusted thus, preventing blood flow, and with no vent system whatsoever in the ‘cap’ or brim of the hat.
In an ideal world we would all wear the iconic pith helmets as Michael Caine did in Zulu when out in the sun.
A truly brilliant design but in this style/fashion conscious world we live in probably a step too far for many.
In real world terms the great range of Tilley hats probably come closest to something that works very well but still retains a degree of style.
But will the phenomenon of the baseball cap as a fashion icon ever really be overcome? Even when many insist on wearing it incorrectly even when the sun is in their face (#commonsense…).
For kids, the ideal ‘hat’ is a visor (like some tennis players use…) but its not cool; the old wives tale of at least 80% of the heat in your body exiting from the top of your head still abounds.In reality, this is not the case at all BUT when you are doing physical activity i.e. playtime/running around, then heat does increase around the head and therefore ‘sealing’ it in with a tight hat is simply not an ideal thing to do. I come back to the tennis player example. How many times do you see tennis players running around in the heat with a hat on? Seldom.
But you do see a few with sun visors…So when I see advice given for youngsters to wear baseball hats, often too tightly adjusted and without proper ventilation in the upper brim or ‘cap’, it concerns me. Hair (for those of us that still have it….) is there for a reason – to protect our heads from a myriad of things not least the sun.
The most important provision a school can provide for protection from the sun is shade – so kids (and staff) can get relief when they need it or are directed to do so.
Sunblock’s and 50% UV protection cream also alarm me. Your body needs vitamin D to survive, and the earlier you educate youngsters on how to use the sun as part of a healthy lifestyle is crucial. Skin protection is of course very important, but don’t block your skin and pores with greasy ‘paint like’ blocks.
Get professional advice if needed but a good waterproof protection oil/cream from an early age with appropriate UVA and UVB filters will help a youngsters skin acclimatize and adapt to having the sun on them for short periods safely. So two things to be aware of:
- Exposing the body (not just your face) to sun is a good thing in moderation BUT you must adhere to that ‘sun and shade’ principle I mentioned earlier (along with regular hydration).
- Hats and sunblock’s are not the simple answer, and in many ways are often incorrectly used. They can cause more problems than good if used inappropriately
Bottom line – education and balance is key. Sensible behavior is vital so that your body gets the Vitamin D it needs, whilst remaining protected, to help contribute to a healthy and lengthy life.
I’ve noticed more and more that schools are caught in a rut on the use of mobile technology/Social Media. I think this is born out of ignorance or fear rather than a genuine belief that this mobile tech is ‘bad news’.
I cringe when I see see staff ‘take in’ mobile phones when on a school trip, or ban mobile phones in the classroom, thinking that they will dominate the social side of things….and of course they could UNLESS you EDUCATE the kids to use the tech correctly. Banning or taking them in is not the answer. Educating youngsters to use the tech at the right time and correctly is key.
This ideal has to come from the top – the leadership team. Your Head/Principal should have a blog/use twitter to convey thoughts, ideas and establish the vision for his or her school. Deputies should be using social media to contribute to ideas and convey issues. Schools and departments should use Pinterest to harbour new ideas and share good ones. Youngsters use these mediums. They get it. Why don’t the adults that pride themselves on being educators and ‘educating the youth of tomorrow’? As for Facebook…well, if you are reading this, and your school is not on Facebook (at least to show others what is going on and good in your schools) then I am afraid you are already way, way behind if not lost for good.
There is an annoying culture amongst many adults that Social Media and Mobile Tech is bad for youngsters. Sure, like anything, there can be problems and these need to be carefully managed BUT if you do not embrace the opportunities social media presents, and the technology that facilitates it’s use, you, and your school, will rapidly find yourself fighting a battle you will never win.
This stuff is here to stay and is not going away. Establish the vision, find ways to best use it, to harness it’s learning power and you will have students and staff banging on your door to show you ways that their education and learning is improving as a consequence.
Ignore it, or don’t embrace it, and you will find yourself significantly out on that educational limb.
I think this article that I found on inhabitant.com is really interesting. 3D printing on the go – developed by a French designer and supported by crowd funding. Is this the future of manufacturing for independents and designers in this fast paced world that we live in?