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Weekend Dad Notes: Is it Really So Bad to Take Your Kids Out of School During Term Time?

16/01/2014 12:51 GMT | Updated 18/03/2014 09:59 GMT

What's the word for when you smugly disassociate yourself from a group for engaging in a terrible deed, only to realise that you yourself are planning to commit the exact same terrible deed?

It came to me while reading this line, in the Daily Mail where else, that screamed: "A primary school is adding an extra week to its October half-term holiday so Asian families can take their children abroad."

In case you're left in any doubt which type of Asians are taking the mickey here, the article goes on to explain: "One parent, who asked not to be named, said October was the best time to visit family in Pakistan."

My first reaction: mild disapproval (it's hard to lay claim to actual outrage when in the mouth-foaming presence of the Mail Online crowd), followed swiftly by the realisation: "bollocks. That's what I'm planning to do."

Not because I'm Asian, you understand. I don't hate my children enough to subject them to two whole weeks in Pakistan, that's for sure. No, no, I plan to take them to Europe, you see, experience a bit of culture, some art, nothing like what passes for a kid's holiday in the minds of these beardy foreigners!

Like I say, I don't know the exact word for this kind of denial, but I daresay many of you will suggest ones along the lines of 'twat'.

I'm braced for this, not least because I'm gearing up to face two headmasters in my attempt to justify why I'm taking my kids out of school during term time.

The chief reason, I should think, is obvious. I'm not a high-flyer (or flying at any height, to be frank), and like so many other parents, am feeling the pinch. Certainly enough to balk at the 40% difference in the cost of flights and accommodation between term time and school break. If you're in a position where you can shrug off the extra hundreds if not thousands of pounds, you have my envy. But for those experiencing financial hardship, can you really insist families stick to the designated holiday dates, knowing full well the same vacation can be bought for significantly cheaper and minus the heaving masses if booked even a few days before or after?

The answer, clearly, is yes. You can absolutely insist that no parent pisses about arranging family breaks during term time. A recent letter from my son's school reminded me that, "from September 2013, the Government changed the rules about authorising absence. The changes make clear that, from this date, Headteachers may not now grant leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances and the discretion to authorise parents'/carers' requests for up to 10 days absence for the purpose of a family holiday has been removed."

The story of the couple who face £2,000 in fines and possible jail time for taking their kid out of school for seven days just as the new law came into force last September means we now have to take this legislation very seriously indeed.

When I booked the break (and I hasten to clarify it's an extended weekend rather than a whole week away) in what now looks less like a cheeky way to save a few quid and more like an outright criminal activity, my intentions were to give my children more quality time than the standard weekend, the opportunity to experience the kind of bonding only a holiday can bring.

Speaking as a man who lives with his new wife and sees his kids on alternate weekends, those moments are like gold dust. Surely seeing the world and feeling at the centre of it with your estranged father for a couple of days more than usual can't be deemed as being detrimental to a child's growth?

I never got to do much bonding with my old man but I certainly remember the day he lifted me onto his shoulders to show me the peaks of the Himalayas a darn sight better than the day I might've missed double algebra.

Kay Burford, from the council where the aforementioned couple live, disagrees. Defending the legislation, she says: 'Absence from school is disruptive to the child's education and has a detrimental impact on attainment.'

And sending the kid's parents to jail doesn't?!

Am I really on my own here? My ex, the mother of the children, wants no part in this. I have to face my headmasters alone. My wife finds it totally immoral. This sort of thing teaches kids that going to school isn't as important as we make out after all, she says.

I know I started this article armed with righteous justifications, but somewhere in the process of writing this I've been left thinking they're probably right. Taking kids out of school during term time isn't big or clever.

Maybe my parents took me out of school the day they taught everyone else this lesson...