Taking a holiday from school

More than 23,000 school students are taken out of class for a family holiday each school term, new figures reveal.

Officials warn that while many parents believe holidays can be educational they can cause gaps in students’ learning that aren’t easily detected or filled.

Parents have been fined in the United Kingdom after a Government law change designed to stamp-out holidays during term time.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education’s Lisa Rodgers, deputy secretary early learning and student achievement, said absences from school should be avoided where at all possible.

“While holidays may provide valuable learning experiences, they can cause gaps in students’ understandings that are not easily detected.

“In the senior years, there is emerging evidence of substantial impact on students’ NCEA where school attendance is variable, even for cumulative one-day absences.”

Principals say both rich and poor families pull their children from school for travel, which has been termed “parent-condoned truancy”.

Sounds potentially bad.  This holiday thing.  24,000 per term.

That sounds terrible, until you line that up with the fact that, on average, 30,000 “unjustified absences” are recorded per school day.

Stop beating up on parents that take their kids overseas for a week or two and let’s not get distracted from the fact that truancy is rife simply because – once again – it suffers the New Zealand Disease:  lack of enforcement.  Zero consequences for parents and caregivers means that the kids fall through the cracks.  These are likely to be the same kids that will be a burden on the taxpayer along the way.

Let’s deal to truancy before it becomes a police matter, a court matter, a health matter and/or a social welfare matter.

Allan Vester, chairman of the NZ Secondary Principals Council and head of Edgewater College in Pakuranga, has previously told the Herald that about four families asked to take early holidays before each break, and principals could do little because families were clearly going no matter the response.

The Education Act requires students to attend each school day. But a principal may allow an absence for no more than five school days.

Boards of trustees can prosecute parents for their children’s non-attendance, but this is a last resort and only for serious cases.

The parents are clearly going because there is absolutely zero down-side to extending the middle finger to the school system.


– NZ Herald

  • Sailor Sam

    We have taken 3 grandchildren out of school for holidays in Australia, with the consent of their parents.
    Their mother is a teacher, her husband a psychologist

  • Jman

    One can potentially save thousands by taking a holiday out of season. Plus the place you want to go usually isn’t already booked out a year in advance and you get to avoid the crowds.

    • Aucky

      Unless you blithely walk into the US or Europe during their long summer vacation! It beats my why Kiwis choose to holiday in the Northern Hemisphere in July/August.

  • digby

    I don’t see the problem .These students are getting to see parts of the world and meeting people from other places which results in a far better learning experience than you can get in a classroom. The kids who remain in class are getting better service from their teachers as there are less kids in the class. Its a win-win scenario. Most kids and parents ask for the material that the kids are missing from the teachers so they can do it on the plane there and back and aren’t really missing anything.
    This is totally different from kids who wag class without consent as they are not getting anything positive from it and are actively doing it to avoid schoolwork.

    Yet another beat-up and column filling piece of rubbish for which the MSM are happy to receive and on-sell.

  • GoingRight

    Earlier this year year we took all the family to Fiji to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. Most of the adults returned after the 5 nights in a gorgeous place on Natadola beach. My son and daughter in law had already decided to add a further week onto the trip and so their three kids plus our other grand daughter and myself stayed on but on one of the islands. We all had a ball and yes two of the kids were school age and two at kindy and it was during term time. It was a special family time and none of us have any regrets in going. In fact one of the principals said it was great we were going to celebrate a special family event as a family.

    When our three kids were growing up we went to UK every two years until their high school years and usually it was also in term time but again that was to visit all the rest of my family. We would be away around 6 weeks and now I only have one sister left over there with my parents and one sister dying nearly 17 years ago and my brother earlier this year. So how special were those trips and we have no regrets at all. Our youngest daughter was proposed to three years ago in the same house (now owned by my surviving sisters) in adore Castle where we used to visit her grandparents in all those years ago which shows how much those visits meant . Happy days, happy memories for us all.

    • Intrigued

      We did much the same for two family celebrations in Fiji just earlier this month for a week. It was a very special time for the family – especially my elderly parents with family joining us from various parts of the world. Possibly for the last time. With my 3 children at preschool, primary and NCEA 1, getting permission to take them away in term time was required -it was granted – but the school work and consideration around study was also given serious attention and we made sure the older two did their homework and study. That’s what responsible parents do. Years ago we did a big trip to Europe and my son who was 9 at the time wrote a diary every day of our travels during the month we were away. It was a phenomenal experience for him that opened up his mind and perceptions on the world which benefits him now and that diary was quite an achievement that is great to look back on.
      It’s not always possible to confine overseas trips to school holidays. It would be a step too far in nanny-statism to penalise responsible parents who help to supplement their children’s learning through these sorts of experiences. Truancy on the other hand is a serious problem – but not likely the case when you have parents who take their parental responsibilities seriously. That’s where the state unfortunately has a justifiable role. Why aren’t the kids at school? There’s enough of these children to absorb MOE and MSD resources and ensuring the kids that are falling through the cracks and not attending school should be their focus in this respect. Not beating the rest of us over the head with a big stick and trying to rule our lives as to when we can and can’t go on an overseas trip with our children.

      • GoingRight

        I gather in the UK parents are fined if they take their kids on holiday. Sadly this ruling meant that our new son in law had two of his sisters from UK unable to attend his wedding in NZ last year to our daughter as both sisters had school aged children.

        • Aucky

          That’s sort of correct. Parents can request time off from school from the principal and also if there are special circumstances.


          Yes, the Brits are tougher in all respects than our schools. Could that be the reason that their kids are more literate and numerate than ours?

  • Davo42

    So does that mean schools will now ban any trips away, camps or sports exchanges that require the kids to be absent for a week or so seeing as it is so detrimental to their education?

    • Aucky

      Should you as a parent so wish Davo. Just collectively make your thoughts known to the BOT.

  • Aquarius 61

    And this doesn’t take into account school sanctioned days off for sport, jaunts or other non-teaching events?

    • KeepLeft_VoteRight

      Such as teacher only days!

      • Aucky

        Teacher-only days are fully accounted for in the minimum number of half days of school attendance required by law in the school year.

  • Tracy

    When our kids were younger we had the good fortune to be able to use a friends Timeshare for a week each year. Unfortunately it was impossible to get a booking anywhere near school holidays so we took them out of school for a week each time. The school was supportive and the time we spent as a family was invaluable. We also ensured there was plenty of “education” going on, We went to Paihia twice, they could actually visit where the treaty was signed, something they learnt every year at school about. Also lots of physical exercise, walks tours etc. We decided that once they got to high school we would stop so that they did not miss any school. They still recall different things about those trips some 10 years later.

  • sandalwood789

    Children holidaying on school-days with their parents aren’t a problem. The *real* problem is the children wagging school and hanging around the malls. Almost all of them will be low achievers and many will end up committing crimes.

    I wish the government would get serious about truancy. A lot more effort put in there would mean that less is needed later on.

    • Aucky

      I totally agree. There’s no harm in primary school kids taking time out and most teachers and principals go along with that. As a parent I would be hesitant to take my kids away once they get into their senior years at high school.

  • Builder

    For many it would mean not taking a holiday at all. The ticket prices at peak times would mean only the very rich could afford it.

    • Doug

      Then labour can declare that holidays have become elitist, and then say that is why the minimum wage needs to be higher. It will give them another platform come election time

  • Hard1

    A/ The parents are clearly going because there is absolutely zero down-side to extending the middle finger to the school system.
    B/ Airfares are way, way cheaper.

  • Gourmet

    What about when teachers go on strike…!!! Different set of rules must apply then..

    • herewego

      And there will be lots of this over the next 12 months in the run to the general election

      • Aucky

        Really? What info sources do you have to lead you to present that argument? I can’t recall any significant strike action by teachers in recent times let alone in pre-election periods.

        • herewego

          Union stop work meeting next week on Global Funding. Expect that once we head towards the election with policy that the unions/Labour don’t like – Global Funding, COOL, etc. – that this will be a probable course of action.

    • Aucky

      If I recall correctly the last national strike was in 1994 over pay parity.

  • Wayne McDougall

    I’ll tell you what causes undetected gaps in children’s learning – thoughtless changes in the curriculum. My oldest son didn’t know how to do long division. I ask about this at “maths parent expo” for 2nd son. Teacher asks me “what year is #1 son?” I answer and she says “yeah, that’s right. We changed the year we teach long division and that school year were never taught”

    What else gets missed through thoughtless changes? I don’t know what other holes there might be in other areas.

    And yeah, long division turned out to be a useful skill in algebra and computer science.

  • johcar

    … gaps in students’ learning that aren’t easily detected…

    If they’re not easily detected, how do these “officials” know there is a problem??

  • Elihu

    Home school and no worries. Take responsibility for your own children’s education.