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Sunday 21 September 2014

One third of parents take children out of school for holidays

Published 11/04/2014 | 02:30

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ONE THIRD of parents have admitted pulling their children out of school for a holiday amid warnings that attendance is "the biggest indicator" of educational outcomes.

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As schools shut their doors today for the two-week Easter break, a new survey reveals that as many as 32pc of parents admitted taking their children out of school for a holiday, while a further 21pc of mums and dads polled said they had been "very tempted" to do so.

Some 10,700 Irish parents were polled, with 77pc saying they would like to see a cap introduced on the price hikes that airlines and holiday operators can introduce during school holidays.

Some parents said they had taken children out of school early due to work commitments and childcare, but the majority stated it was down to cost factors, with holiday prices differing substantially between off-peak and peak travel times.

The AA Travel Insurance survey revealed that a one-week family trip to Disneyland Paris departing today, during the Easter holidays, would cost 30pc more than a week in May. The flights alone were 86pc more expensive.

Ferry prices were similarly higher – with a return passage for a family of four and their car from Rosslare to Cherbourg working out at 19pc more expensive than a similar journey in May.

Of the parents who have taken their children on holiday during term time, the AA found that a large number did so at the end of the summer term.

A spokesperson for the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) warned that attendance at school was the biggest indicator of educational outcomes.

"If you're not in, you can't win," said Peter Mullan of the INTO. However, he said teachers had sympathy for parents "feeling the pinch," acknowledging that there was a significant hike in holiday prices.

"The difference between the first week in June and the first week in July can mean the difference between a family holiday and no holiday," he said.

FINED

And while some parents do inform the school of their plans to take their child out of school and seek extra work for them to do during the holiday, Mr Mullan said this was "not practical and not fair on anybody."

"It's not fair on the teacher who has to set the extra work, it's not fair on the child who has to do it ... and it's not fair on the parent because a holiday should be a holiday," he said.

Mr Mullan added that if many of the class are missing because of a holiday at the end of the school year, it can be hard on the rest of the children who are left behind to work, "wondering what's going on".

In the UK, parents can be fined a minimum of £60 (€72.50) for taking children out of school without permission.

But while the National Education Welfare Board strongly advises against taking children in Ireland out of school to go on holidays, no such penalty exists here – though in extreme truancy cases, the board can bring prosecutions against parents at the District Court.

Aine Lynch of the National Parents Council, Primary said parents need to think of the message they are sending to their children by taking them out of school for a holiday.

"Children need to go to school and that message can be very difficult to get across if you're removing them for a holiday," she said.

Irish Independent

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