Taking overseas trips during term time: some things to be aware of
It is that time of the year when the Ministry collects and collates a sample week of attendance. Last year when this happened I received a visit from a Ministry Adviser, who pointed out that we 'd had six families away on holiday during the sample week. Currently I seem to be receiving an increasing number of emails informing me that families are taking trips during term time. As a school, we take a reasonably relaxed stance with regards to holidays during term time and this is largely because we have so many families from overseas and I know that the trips back home to reconnect with whanau and culture are hugely important to ensuring a strong sense of cultural and personal identity which is central to well-being. Hence, I support trips back home and even trips around New Zealand with family from back home.
However, when taking these trips, parents need to be aware of a couple of things. The first one is that some students may not fit back into school and into their social groups as quickly as others. Therefore, it may take time before students’ learning starts to pick up again after a holiday away. Careful thought needs to be put into minimising the impact of trips especially for students who are shy or anxious. Ensuring students keep in touch with friends at school is one thing that might help with this. Secondly, it is especially important for students who regularly go on overseas trips, to be at school as much as possible between those trips, or their attendance percentage will remain low and this may disadvantage them in the long term. Thirdly, taking long trips on a regular basis will almost certainly impact the rate of progress your child makes. Now this does not necessarily matter in the long term, as long as you are prepared for your child to progress at a slightly slower pace than their peers might. From my perspective, if a child takes six months longer to reach certain benchmarks because they have been travelling overseas, then I think that is absolutely fine because travelling is also education – just a different type. Demelza’s secondary schooling took a year longer than normal because she spent about 3 months each year in her teenage years representing New Zealand overseas in running events. We would tell her not to take school work with her when she travelled, but rather to make the most of the diverse environments she found herself in.
It didn’t matter that Demelza was a year older than usual when she entered university, because in the meantime she’d had lots of amazing experiences on her travels around the world. However, it wouldn’t have been fair for her to travel so much and then for us, as her parents, to panic because she was falling a little bit behind her peers. Demelza went on to do very well at university. The result of her travels was simply to delay when she started a little. So, if you are going to take your children off on overseas trips on a frequent basis, then you need to be prepared for the fact that it might take them a little bit longer to reach the benchmarks you want for them. And that’s ok!