There has been some very recent (June 2016) heat surrounding the Euro 2016 football games and decisions to either allow school closures or stream the matches live during school time. I for one have two children who were both effected by this idea of closures. I want to highlight my thoughts on the football school closure debate and bring your attention to an aspect that does not seem to be highlighted well. We will take a look at recent news about the debate, comments from campaigners, comments from the general public, and see what we can make of it.
Firstly, I must admit that I may be a little biased because I personally do not follow football. I have never really had an interest in this sport but this does not mean I do not like sports altogether. I personally prefer basket ball or tennis. However, even though these two sports have been mentioned, I do not follow them religiously or pretend to be an expert at any sport.
Another confession is this: when I first heard of certain schools closing, taking a U-turn on the closing debate, or streaming the football matches live within school time, I reacted angrily. This is because of the current situation with the fines associated with taking children out of school for holidays. However, after closer inspection and withdrawing myself from all the hype, I seem to have formed a much clearer understanding of the situation at hand.
It seemed to catch the public attention when an academy school based in Southampton (Oasis Academy Lord’s Hill) had planned to allow its pupils to leave early on the 16th June 2016 to watch the England v Wales football match. This match was part of the Euro 2016 which is highly respected and adored by many supporters. However, term-time holiday campaigners had accused this headteacher (and the academy) of hypocrisy. I feel this was the fuse that sparked the debate around whether or not schools should be allowing pupils to either leave early to watch the football match or indeed, have the option to watch the match within the school day.
I do understand the comments made by Craig Langman, chairman of the Parents Want A Say campaign. He accused the school of being ‘hypocritical’ at a time when many parents are facing fines for removing children from school for holiday reasons. He said:
“Parents do not want schools to stop providing extra-curricular activities for kids, for them to go skiing, day trips or to see football matches, but in an age when the state is giving fixed penalty notices it is hypocritical for them to say we can do this but you can’t because we are the educators and you are not.” – Craig Langman (2016)
Yes, the timing is not perfect especially with the high courts ruling in favour of a father who recently challenged his local council for a fine he received. The fine related to Jon Platt (from the Isle of Wight) who took his daughter out of school for a family holiday. He took his local council to court and it was argued that his daughter had indeed attained a regular attendance. What stands out here is the terminology used ‘regular attendance’. This will now need to be clarified by the government and as many have predicted, the council will now appeal the high court ruling and ask for clarification on the terminology and the semantics surrounding them. However, it has also been stated that no matter what happens in the court, the law will eventually be changed to reflect the fact that parents should not be removing children from school to go on family holidays.
What is interesting about this situation is the general public, although the media have portrayed it slightly differently, do agree with children being able to watch the football match. I came across two online polls that were performed by respectable news agencies which highlight the public perception. The first online poll was carried out by Express and Star news website. The exact question used was, ‘Should schools let pupils leave early to watch England?’. Out of 605 voters (20th June 2016 @ 10:30am), 60% agreed that this is acceptable. Another online poll took a slightly different approach. The Wales Online website asked the following question, ‘Should children be allowed to watch the Euros in school?’. Although it is not clear at the time of writing this article exactly how many voters there were, 92% agreed that children should be allowed to watch the matches during school time.
60% of voters agree that pupils should be allowed to leave school early to watch the Euro 2016 England v Wales football match – Express and Star (2016).
92% of voters agree that pupils should be allowed to watch the football match live during school time by live stream – Wales Online (2016).
After reading many articles on news websites and sifting through the many comments left by people who are in support or object to this, I have realised that what we are indeed doing is comparing two completely different aspects of education. What do I mean by this?
Most of the debate is based around parents receiving fines for removing children during term-time for family holidays. However, when I take a step back I have to recognise the comparison here… Taking your child out of school for a holiday ranging between one day or 2 weeks is not the same as allowing children to leave 1 hour or a maximum of 2 hours early to watch an international football match. I would argue that taking your children out of school for a weeks holiday is far more detrimental to a child’s education that an hour to watch a football match. The fines are in place to stop parents taking children out of their education for periods of time that affect their education and learning. I am sure many people have called into school stating that their child is ill so they can travel on a certain day for a holiday, or attend a family event that happens during the school day. But this is not the same as removing your child from school for 2 weeks holiday.
However, from my experience with my two daughters, it would appear that some schools have taken liberty of this football match. In my opinion the schools should accept that not all students will want to watch the football match. We all know this is true and both my girls had no interest in watching the football match. Yes, this may have something to do with myself not engaging in the sport of football. However, if my girls decided they wanted to engage in football I would support them fully. Now back to my point… my eldest arrived home that day stating that her particular school had shown the match on every single TV around the school and lessons were cancelled. She missed a French lesson although she was still in her French classroom. The football match was streamed on the TV in the classroom. She found herself and many of her friends (yes, generally female she added) just using their mobile devices to chat, use social media, or listen to music. My youngest attends primary school and she mentioned that lessons were cancelled also and the match was streamed live in her school hall. However, she did managed to get out of watching it because she asked if she could help out in the kitchen while the football match was playing.
My point is this… schools should and do have a responsibility to cater for all their students needs. Classes should have continued for those that do not want to engage in this sport. I feel a select amount of schools forced the football match onto their pupils without actually asking or providing other measures of engagement. My eldest missed her French lesson (which in her own words, she enjoys the subject even though it can be a challenge), and my youngest was currently engaging in a Business and Enterprise week at her school. This was cut short due to the football match taking place. I would argue that learning about business and enterprise out ways watching a football match any day of the week (again, I am biased here because of my lack of interest in the sport of football).
In summary, I feel we are comparing two different aspects here that do not fit well together. The fine is to support the school in tackling those parents that do remove their children from school for prolonged periods of time. Watching a football match (assuming the student does accept this) is not as bad as it would have been made out to be. To me, this is a political stunt by those activist groups who are opposing the fines set by councils. However, we must accept that football is embedded within our society. Football provides a rich experience for our communities and also give many pupils goals and inspirations. Not every child wants to become an academic. We embed football directly within their learning by using football game scenarios demonstrated within the image to the right. However, I do not agree with schools forcing the match on pupils and stripping them of their cherished education and learning.
BBC News (2016) – Southampton school U-turn over Euro 2016 early closing. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-36468061
BBC News (2016) – Term-time holiday father wins at High Court. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36277940
Express and Star (2016) – Euro 2016 POLL: Should schools let pupils leave early to watch England? Available at: https://www.expressandstar.com/news/polls/2016/06/08/euro-2016-poll-should-schools-let-pupils-leave-early-to-watch-england/
Schools Week (2016) – Schools can close early for Euro 2016. Available at: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/red-card-for-pupils-time-off-to-watch-euro16/
The Caretakers (2016) – The Staff Room » Schools closing early for football. Available at: https://www.thecaretakers.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=31960
Wales Online (2016) – Should schools show Wales v England at Euro 2016? This is what you said! Available at: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/should-schools-show-wales-v-11467635