Wednesday, 31 July 2013

School Holiday Controversy

We are now into the school summer holidays, which has led to some heated debates recently. When I say school holiday controversy, it is more like controversies, as there are several different issues floating about at the moment.

School's out for summer

On facebook there is a page I am a member of called "Bicester Have A Rant Page". Now a very close friend of mine who have the utmost respect for posted up a week a two back that one of the things that really gets her goat is people moaning about the school holidays. I can certainly see her point of view. I have seen quite a few people put up comments during the holidays on facebook about how stressed they are, "bloody kids fighting all the time", that sort of thing.

Parents celebrate during the school holidays in The Simpsons,
as the bus departs for Kamp Krusty.

My friend loves the extra time she gets with her kids during the school holidays, as do I, and feels very strongly on the issue. So when someone put up a message today bemoaning the 6 week long holidays and the problems caused by the kids being off that long, my friend responded, many other chipped in, and all hell broke loose for a while.

The thing is, I can understand both points of view, although I personally love having the kids at home with me, I am very lucky because I am lucky enough to earn my living predominantly from home, that's running the disco business, and developing my writing career. Admittedly, it's much harder to get work done when the kids are around, but I work around it. My writing, other than these blog entries is more or less done for the summer now, so unless fame comes calling between now and September, the kids will have a lot more time with me. Obviously I still have other work to do - I have spent several hours over the past two days putting together and perfecting a playlist for a 70s disco I am doing on Saturday. Why have I spent so much time on this? Because it is for a very good friend's 50th birthday party, they are paying me well for it and they deserve to get their money's worth. I could never be one of those DJ's who just turns up somewhere and trots out the same old stuff.

Another Simpsons picture. I think Disco Stu would enjoy this Saturday's party.

We've also had builders here for two days, replacing the chimney pot, which put the garden out of bounds. However I planned for all of this in advance so the kids were packed off to the grandparents for 24 hours. Now all the hard work is done they can have my almost undivided (it can never be 100%) attention for the next few days.

I think when some complain they don't really mean it, though I have seen statuses (or stati) put up at times on facebook where I wonder, "seriously, why did you have children?". I don't think the school holidays are the great evil some make out, you just need to adjust. If you have read my first book, you'll recall a chapter entitled "Getting out of the term time mentality" which sums this up very well.

Apart from the joy of spending time with the kids, there are other benefits too. Mornings are remarkably relaxed around here these days. We potter about, have a bit of breakfast, I have a cup of tea, chat and relax and head out when we are ready. There is none of the mad panic associated with school day  mornings when tempers can be frayed running against the clock to get to school on time. That we managed a 100% arrival time in the past year was a minor miracle when I recall the number of incidents from the boys in uncooperative mode, failing to eat breakfasts, messing around while getting dressed, pooing a nappy just as the key is in the front door whilst ready to leave the house, that sort of thing.

I think one of the major complaints about the summer holidays is that they are too long. I agree. Not because it is too long looking after the kids 24/7 but because I just don't like the way the school year is divided up. New legislation coming in this year though means that every school has the right to set whatever terms it likes, providing they fulfil the necessary number of weeks a year, which is about 38.

What difference will this make? Diddly squat. I cpnfidently predict that not a single school around here will deviate from the school year we currently have. Why? I'll come on to that. But first we should commiserate with the fact it won't happen for the following reasons.

Firstly it would end the outrageous rip off of travel agents charging 2x or even 3x the cost of a term time holiday in the 6 week summer break. If every school had different holidays, some off in June, some off in July, some off in September, then it would smooth out the prices. It would be bad news for you that don't have school age children as you wouldn't enjoy the cheap breaks you get in term time now, but well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. Or doesn't in this case because it won't happen.

Speaking of controversy, another piece of legislation coming in, announced about 18 months ago by our "esteemed" Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is that Headmasters are no longer authorised to grant term time holidays. We used to be allowed up to 10 days under the old scheme, so you could get your cheap break in, but that's been stopped. Now I imagine a majority of teachers will be positively in support of this - after all they cannot take time off in the term, and also it's disruption for them when kids are off. But not everyone is, including the head of education in Oxfordshire, and the thing I fear most about this ruling is that the travel companies are going to use it to hike the holiday prices ever higher, because they know many parents won't take their children out for fear of retribution.

If only schools did take advantage of this new ruling to set a new imaginative school timetable, so schools were all off at different times, it would solve it, but there is one very good reason I can see it not happening.

Imagine if one of the Primary schools in Bicester decided to radically alter its school year, and for sake of argument, have its six week break in June and July, going back just as all the other were breaking up. Good news for the parents? Well maybe, if you have only got one child, but what if you have got older children at another school that sticks to the original timetable? Six weeks off for one and then six off for the other? That's 12 weeks of childcare to sort out if you work and you can't go on holiday at all, because they are all off at the same time. No - there would be uproar and it would never happen.

The only way I can see to beat this, is if individual counties were to set there own radically different holidays. So in Oxfordshire we all do the same, but in Berkshire their holidays are all completely different. That means we've got consistency locally, but screws up the travel agents rip off business plans. Will it happen? Of course not, it's a sensible idea!

My idea of the perfect year? Scrap half terms. Have 3 weeks off at Christmas, 3 weeks off at Easter, 4 weeks off in July and 4 weeks off in September. Sorted. You don't want to be off in August anyway, that's a crap month and there are too many wasps about. Sorry Ollie, I know I promised you'd never have to go to school on your birthday but under my plan you will!

Before I go, if you did not know already, I am absolutely delighted to announce that my second book was launched yesterday and is now for sale in the Amazon store, with a paperback due shortly. This is a sequel to my first book and is called Austerity Dad. If you enjoyed my first book, I really hope you'll want to purchase this one too. I am still awaiting my first review, and I'm not going to canvas for reviews, if you do buy and want to leave one, I'll be flattered of course, as I was last time.

Here is the link To view Austerity Dad on Amazon, click here

I personally think this book is a great improvement over my first offering. I have taken a lot more time, chosen more carefully what to include and what not to include, and found the perfect picture for the front. The piggy bank timer works on so many levels - the austerity, money saving theme of the book, my general love of ham, bacon and pork products in general, and the little timer on the side, which is quite apt when you consider the early morning races against time I mentioned above. Oh and buying this book and following the tips within will be like putting money into your own piggy bank. Well most of the tips anyway, some of them are spoof tips, but I am sure you know me well enough by now to know what's real and what isn't.

Just keeping in with the Simpsons picture theme there.

If I could review it myself I'd write all of the above and tell you what a comedy masterpiece it is, and to buy it now before I'm finally discovered so you can say to people "I knew him when he was just a small town DJ, and I bought the first copy of his first book when he spelt "diary" as "dairy" in the introduction on the first print run - it's worth a fortune now you know".

But I'm getting a bit above myself there, still, I have to sell myself, so I say, buy the book for £2.50 and have a good laugh, you won't regret it.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx


  1. just brought it Jason look forward to reading it x

    Nat x

    1. Ah, brilliant, Nat - thank-you! Let me know what you think! x

  2. Magic Holidays : Great article Thanks to shared with us ! I will bookmark this !