It isn't surprising that many families at Amesbury School take their children out for term time holidays overseas. However, Principal, Lesley Murrihy, urges parents to do so thoughtfully and with care/Attendance at school is really important as the research I have presented at different times shows. As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, students’ absences due to holidays overseas or in New Zealand are to be considered unjustified absences. However, my stance and the stance of the Board of Trustees is not quite as black and white. We understand that trips home for family and cultural celebrations, for example, are really important and are often time bound. We think it is important for our students and their families to stay strongly connected to their cultural heritages and family overseas.
However, parents would be wise to think carefully before taking their children out of school during term time. There is no doubt that it can have a significantly negative impact on their progress and achievement, especially if it happens more than once. Also, it impacts some children more than others. Students who struggle socially are likely to find it more difficult to settle back into school upon their return and are more likely to suffer increased friendship issues as a result.
We don’t want to make fixed rules about holidays during term times (as some schools have), but we do want parents to think very carefully about possible impacts on their children before planning a holiday during term time. At the very least, make an informed decision. We can point to very clear evidence in our school of the progress and achievement of students being impacted by holidays overseas – especially when it happens more than onceand for an extended period of time. Most students' learning will recover over time, but some may not.
If you are planning to holiday during term time, you need to be aware of the following procedural information from our policy:
In the case of holidays during term time, parents are required to contact the principal in writing well in advance of the holiday. The principal will ensure that parents are informed of the link between student achievement, longevity and success in education, and attendance and any likely impacts of the holiday on the child’s success at school.
Justified absences occur when the explanation for a student’s absence is considered by the school to be a reasonable, acceptable and defensible reason for the student to be absent from school. The following are examples of absences the school considers justified:
· Student absent due to illness/medical/dental reason
· Student is stood down or suspended
· The absence is approved by the school such as an overseas trip or holiday within New Zealand…
This means that if the principal is not informed in writing, the student’s holiday absences may be coded as an “unjustified absence”.
This is all about working together in the best interests of our students and your children. Thank you for your consideration of this.
By Lesley Murrihy