Saturday, 21 September 2013

Taking children out of school for the right reason

I notice in the Westmorland Gazette, the headline on their front page "Schools warn of £120 parent fine" - for what ?  : taking their children on family holidays during school time.

As a former very successful teacher, I agree that in many cases, parents that take their children out of school for a full length holiday are making a mistake.

I equally would criticise those parents who fail to consider taking their children out of school for the purpose of widening their education - for instance: A trip to London of maybe Salford to see a one off special performance in a theatre which was not available in holiday time. For example Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake at The Lowry, Salford  on November 12th to 16th - ie very soon.

A chance to witness a very special thunderstorm with forked lightening from the top of Birkrigg if, when they come home for lunch, this looks a possibility.

Both these experiences could fire up a child's education for months and stimulate a much higher intelligence than any list of mediocre school lessons. Of course we all crave top level lessons and superb trips.

As someone who mixes with a fair number of young parents in their thirties, I am horrified by most of their unquestioning attitudes of the schools they send their children to. An attitude that echoes the concept that teachers are right when insisting the education in schools comes before the potential education on a far higher 'level' that can be gained by taking their children out for their own special reasons. I would hope that all good teachers backed by their heads will want to encourage parents who have the foresight to see opportunities for a special experience that cannot be gained in any other way than taking their children out of school.

In a similar way I question teachers who abide strictly to their lesson plans, derived  to teach the National Curriculum, when an opportunity to have a really good 'off topic' discussion is raised by an inquisitive pupil. One who might  ask "Why is the sky blue?" in a Physics lesson or "Do you think the ancient Philosopher, Seneca, was right break to the rules he taught to his students"and thus could be seen as a hypocrite in a History/PRE lesson or "Are Politicians ever justified in stating that the are 110% sure that a policy is correct " in their maths lesson or even better in the same lesson "How many years will my Dad have to wait  to be sure of winning the lottery if he buys a ticket every week" . . . .   "What was that sir. Did you say 500 thousand years. Then why the hell does he do it?" Reply- "For that you need a psychology lesson."

I believe there is far too much belief around that "the experts know best". You as a parent or grandparent may have far superior insights into what constitutes 'good education'. If you hold a view that is not mainstream, then don't buckle and be brainwashed into believing that 'teachers always know best'. If you're a thinking parent - you may know better.

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