Time at school is all too precious to miss

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When I was seven years old - many moons ago - I used to love going to school. I would pack up my bag and hurry out of the door just as soon as I had finished my bowl of cornflakes – so keen was I to get going.

However, I must point out the urgency in my desire to go to school did not lie in wanting to copy out endless sums from the blackboard or sing the hundreds of hymns we would be expected to rattle through every assembly.

It was more in the fact it meant I would get to see my friends. At least a whole 12 hours had passed without us seeing each other and I, for one, was having withdrawal symptoms.

If you got to the playground early enough there was a time for a quick game of jacks or marbles, or even the chance to swap much sought-after stickers. I never seemed to be able to complete my sticker albums. I remember having two annoying gaps in my 1982 E.T album. Despite buying endless packets of stickers for 5p from the nearby newsagents, I never seemed to have the necessary cards. And all the other children seemed not to have the elusive pair either.

I am sure it was a marketing ploy, looking back now.

I loved the walk to school as on my way I would meet dozens of the neighbourhood cats. In those days it seemed every second home had at least one cat, which would always be lazily stretched out on a doorstep inviting me to tickle it on the belly as it purred appreciatively. Others would wait for my step along the pavement, standing guard on gate pillars, urging me to tickle them under the chin as I approached.

Often this would make me later than intended and I would only have time for a quick few games with my friends before the huge bell would be clanged in the yard ordering us to line up in our classes.

Lessons seemed to whiz by with the anticipation of the next break helping speed us all through. Looking back, it seems to me that my time at school flew by, with various years and teachers all merging into one big flurry.

Although my school days are long behind me I am re-living them in some ways as I watch my eldest daughter go though her school days. However, here there is a marked difference. She is not keen on getting up to go to school at all. After the holidays it is ten times worse.

This week she had an extra day off after last week’s half term due to a teacher training day at her school, which meant she and I got to have a “girly” day together.

This is a rarity as usually I am armed with all three children and I have to try to find suitable things to go to which suit them all.

Last week was an endless round of museums, parks and zoos in my bid to entertain them all. Luckily things have moved on since my day and all these places cater brilliantly for small people.

I remember spending endless weekends tramping round musty old stately homes because my parents wanted to see some rare antique or admire some Rococo fireplace. Everywhere you looked there were signs saying “Do not touch” in angry capital letters.

Stern “volunteers” would glare at my brother and I from the corner of the room, their eyes telling us to “behave, or else”.

But nowadays it is all set up for families, I am pleased to say. Children can tour these homes armed with their own child-sized clipboards as they hunt out rare artefacts. Outside there are obligatory swings and slides wherever you go, much to my relief.

So we all had a thoroughly pleasant half term and my eldest and I enjoyed our day together at the cinema on Monday. But as the night drew in a change suddenly swept over our child. She became cross and grumpy, unwilling to be helpful. The next day was worse as she told us in no uncertain terms “I don’t want to go to school, why can’t I stay at home instead?”

Sadly the reality of life means you can’t always do what you want, we told her. There are highs and lows in life and the only way you get to enjoy the highs is to live through the more mundane days, I said.

There is nothing better I would have liked than to have been able to say to her – “Well why not? Let’s just take another week’s holiday and have a great time without all the crowds of other children there as well.”

But the reality is, had we done this that would have meant her missing a fifth of her school work this half term, something I am not willing to compromise on. Education is all too precious and goes far too quickly as it is.

Sheffield City Council has just launched a campaign urging parents to think twice before booking holidays during term time. “Miss school and you’ll miss out”, is the bleak warning. For information on this campaign visit: www.sheffield.gov.uk/