March 26, 2015

53% of mums admit to taking children out of school during term time, Ireland’s leading online parenting community highlights the secret reality that over half of mums are taking their children out of school during term time in order to be able to afford a family holiday. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, MummyPages’ latest mum research uncovers the stark reality that peak time family holidays are still unaffordable for many.

Research into all aspects of the school holidays reveal that 53% of mums take their children out of school during term time to avoid paying for family holidays at peak times. Of these mums, 80% notified their child’s school in advance with one in four mums bringing school work on holidays. Overall, the majority of mums (88%) feel parents have the authority to take child out of school during the school term without being penalised for doing so.

MummyPages’ main findings include:
• 53% of mums admit to taking children out of school during term time to avoid paying high prices for family holidays
o 80% of mums notified child’s school in advance
o 27% bring school work on holidays
• 88% of mums believe parents have the right to take their child out of school for family holidays and family occasions
• 75% of mums feel extra financial pressure during the school holidays due to the extra cost of childcare, camps and family holidays
• 35% of mums think children get too many school holidays
• 42% of mums believe school holidays should be spread more evenly throughout the year
• 49% of mums breathe a sigh of relief when their children return to school after term-time holidays

Working Mums:
• 44% of working mums report that their employer is unable to accommodate their needs during school holidays
• 22% of working mums are unable to take annual leave from work at the same time as their children’s school holidays because of the high demand for holidays at this time
• 53% of working mums report feeling guilty for not being able to spend more time with their children during school holidays
• 52% of mums struggle to manage work, the household and childcare duties during school holidays

Working families in particular struggle to make alternative childcare arrangements for their children. Interestingly, four in ten mums are calling for holidays to be distributed evenly throughout the year to ease the pressure on working parents. Far surpassing the financial pressure of extra childcare arrangements at this time is the emotional strain that is felt by 53% of working mums who feel guilty for not being able to spend more time with their children during the school holidays.

In order to manage their children’s school holidays:
• 45% of mums rely on the help of relatives
• 34% of mums use a combination of their own and their partners annual leave
• 15% of mums get a babysitter
• 13% of mums send their children to a summer camp
• 10% of mums take unpaid leave

A key issue highlighted by MummyPages’ research is the limited options available to mums when it comes to supervising older children. The most popular method of monitoring their older child’s activities during the school holidays was through social media and smart phones for 53% of mums with 60% reporting that they ring them regularly to check in on them. Another effective way of keeping teens busy during the school holidays reported by a third of our mums was to get them a part-time job or to make them responsible for minding their siblings.

Commenting on MummyPages research Laura Haugh, Mum-in-Residence for says:

“Children in Ireland receive 69 days holidays in primary school and 85 days holidays from the annual school term curriculum in secondary schools. These figures do not include weekends or public holidays and can present great difficulties for working parents who need to organise childcare for these days. The average employee receives just 21 days annual leave so even if both working parents use up all of their entitlement to cover the school holiday, they will still fall short.”

“Irish schools have one of the highest amounts of term holidays in Europe. The State schools in England, Wales, Germany and Denmark give their students an average of six to seven weeks holidays. This is a much more manageable number for parents who work; it also allows both teachers and pupils to maintain good study habits and learning momentum. Many of our mums report that their secondary school children have completely forgotten how to study by the time they return to school in September.”

“In terms of the high costs of holidaying at peak times, France has an interesting model whereby the country is divided into a number of zones so that the whole country isn’t trying to take holidays at the same time. We can understand that for financial reasons here in Ireland, a large number of our mums choose to take their children out of school during term time for family holidays. While it is not ideal, a common sense approach should apply and certainly we would not be in favour of punitive laws to be introduced to stop this practice like in the UK.”