Western Australian teachers have urged caution when parents take children out of school for cheap off-season holidays to places such as Bali.
State School Teachers’ Union of Western Australia President Pat Byrne said that in recent years teachers had made her union aware there was a problem with many students taking time off from school for holidays in Bali or other places.
“This is often associated with fly-in, fly-out [employment] arrangements,” Ms Byrne said.
“Because fathers in particular are away for two-to-four weeks, then come home for one-to-two weeks, there is a view in the family that they should spend more time with Dad.”
Ms Byrne said this could be frustrating for teachers, who found it difficult to ensure children completed required work.
“Obviously one-off situations where the parents take the children on a family holiday sometimes can’t be avoided and are necessary,” she said.
“However, the frequent removal of children from school for periods of time is disruptive to their education and should not be done.”
A 2013 Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations report entitled ‘Student Attendance and Educational Outcomes: Every Day Counts’ showed NAPLAN testing results declined with any absence from school.
Further absence led to a continued drop in test scores.
Author and early childhood educator Maggie Dent said taking children out of school for holidays was not always detrimental to their development.
She stressed the importance of fully immersing children in different cultures and experiences, rather than going on “meaningless shopping trips” in places like Bali.
“If you’re going to take them away to Bali, make them appreciate the depth and beauty of the Hindu culture,” she said.
“Don’t just sit around a pool.”
Ms Dent said the onus should be on parents to ensure children keep up with schoolwork whilst on holiday during school time.
“Particularly in maths, missing the building blocks for future learning can have a negative impact on a child’s learning,” she said.
“Parents need to take responsibility for bringing work away for the children.”
Ms Dent emphasised that no time between parents and children was wasted, and that fly-in, fly-out parents particularly needed to set aside time to bond with their children.
Curtin University education lecturer Jane Merewether said taking children away from school could affect their social skills and relationships with peers.
“One of the dangers of taking a child out of a group situation is that their peer group learns to get on without that individual,” Ms Merewether said.
“The group breaks apart but then heals.
“When the child returns, they find it difficult to break back in.”
Ms Merewether said there were risks in taking children out of school for holidays, but there were also many benefits.
“Somewhere like Bali is completely different, and it’s a really rich and valuable learning experience in itself,” she said.
“Schools can’t provide the kinds of experiences that some of these holidays could.
“The more experiences children can have, the better they are in terms of their education.”
Department of Education Statewide Services Executive Director Lindsay Hale said the department was aware some parents were taking children out of school to go on holidays.
He said children needed to attend at least 90 per cent of their studies to keep up with their classmates.
“Family time is very valuable,” Mr Hale said.
“[However] it is important to stress that taking children out of school for family holidays … is detrimental to their education.
“Parents should be aware that any days their child misses add up and hamper their chances of doing well at school.”