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U.K. Supreme Court decision could impact visits to Walt Disney World

There is an on-going debate about whether it is appropriate to take your child out of school in order to give them the educational experience of a family vacation. It’s well positioned that travel broadens the mind and yes, I would argue that even travel to Walt Disney World qualifies (although obviously not to the same level as a week visiting the Smithsonian or exploring Aztec ruins).

The counter argument is that schools have break periods to accommodate that extra-curricular education experience and that on regular school days, attendance should be required to maximize classroom learning and keep disruptions for other kids to a minimum.

That was the question before the U.K. Supreme Court this week. In a case that has been winding its way through the courts, Jon Platt has been arguing that even if he took his kids on a holiday trip to Walt Disney World, the days the child missed a so minimum as to not impact the child’s education or the classroom environment. The Supreme Court disagreed and now Platt could be asked to pay a fine.

This ruling essentially means that schools in the U.K. have more leverage to penalize families and kids who miss class for any reason, including a that trip to Walt Disney World.

This may seem like a matter of entitlement, but that trip to Walt Disney World had become something of a right of passage for U.K families. Now travel will be limited to non-school periods, not coincidentally, those are the more expensive times to travel. That means fewer U.K families will be able to afford that trip to Orlando, or where ever they choose to visit.

What it means for Walt Disney World is a new plan to help adjust for those missing families. They already offer U.K. families some pretty amazing discounts to visit, but if the U.K. Supreme Court’s decision ends up causing fewer families to travel during the school year, then that adds up to lower attendance for Disney.

Have you ever taken your child from school to travel to Walt Disney World? Anyone from the U.K. reading the blog? DO you think this is a big change in policy? Will it impact your ability to have a Disney holiday with your family?

(via the Guardian)

12 thoughts on “U.K. Supreme Court decision could impact visits to Walt Disney World”

  1. “…if the U.K. Supreme Court’s decision ends up causing fewer families to travel during the school year, then that adds up to lower attendance for Disney.”

    I imagine some of those families may forgo a trip all together, but I also think a lot may defer their trip to school breaks, as well… really hard to judge which it will be. If it truly is a rite of passage, then I imagine many families may still take the trip.

    If it is a matter of crowds, I suppose the school could adjust their calendars so that their breaks line up with low attendance times at WDW.

  2. Ultimately it should be up to the parents if they want to take their child out of school for a trip – any kind of trip. My parents took me to WDW several times during my elemtary and high school years and guess what? I’m a lawyer now. It didn’t “impact my education” at all. Also, the argument that it “disrupts” other students is complete nonsense. How does my absence disrupt Johnny Smith’s ability to pay attention in class? What if I was out because of an illness rather than a vacation – wouldn’t that same absence “disrupt” the others?? Schools should worry more about their teaching methods and curriculum instead of worrying if Sally and Susan are missing 3 days to go on a trip.

  3. And yes I can spell elementary. Typing on this iPhone, however, was NOT something they taught us in school.

  4. If I had to guess I’d say that fluctuations in the value of the Pound vs the Dollar affect Disney’s attendance numbers more than this school thing will — when the value of the Dollar goes up, fewer Europeans travel to the U.S.

    Of course, living here in the U.S., this isn’t of any concern to us, but we’ve had different schools over the years with different attendance policies regarding “unexcused” absences. One year, the school absolutely would not let us take the kids out for a week-long trip to Florida, so their imaginary aunt in Florida suddenly passed away and we had to take the week to go see to the details. When a teacher objected, we told her we’d either be dropping the kids off at her house for her to care for (at her own expense) for the week, or we were taking them to Florida.

    Schools often require a note from a doctor for long absences due to illness, but there’s not much they can do about family emergencies, so I’d recommend anyone who encounters this problem to go with the family emergency excuse. With so much of a child’s schoolwork and homework being done online these days, kids can get their assignments and turn them in even while on vacation — we’ve done that before, too.

  5. I’m a school teacher and the kids who are taken out for trips are not the ones (typically) who disrupt. Furthermore, if a student and their parents assure the work is completed (without me having to re teach it to the student during valuable class time), why should it matter? As far as the breaks given to take vacations…. I refuse to go to Disney in 100 degree heat!!! Let parents be parents and do what they think is best for their child. Can we focus on the students who cause major disruptions that actually DO interfere with learning?!

  6. We’d never be able to take our child again. Erik is a professor on quarters. There are five days between when his summer quarter ends August 10th and her fall semester starts August 16th. Should he inconvenience one elementary school child or 36 O-chem students?

  7. My granddaughters know that if their attendance is really great throughout the school year, they will be allowed to miss a few days to go to WDW in the Spring.
    This decision should be up to the parents.

  8. I am a teacher and I take myself and my daughter out of school for trips. As a teacher, I can’t afford to go when prices are their most expensive. My daughter’s school does not excuse her absences, but I do let them know ahead of time and ask if there’s anything she needs to do while gone. Those are usually the only days she misses of the school year. I also don’t usually miss any other days and have a lot of accumulated sick leave days as a result that I can use however I choose. I do also know as a teacher, unfortunately, that in my district we have a truancy judge that clearly doesn’t care how much school students miss. I have had students miss more than half of the school year and when they are sent to the judge all they say is, “You need to go to school.” No fine for the parents, no punishment whatsoever.

  9. I took my kids out for a family trip to WDW when my daughter was in 3rd grade and my son in 1st. (Ironically a blizzard came through and they only ended up missing 2 days of actual school) The end of this month my daughter now a freshman is going to WDW with the school marching band and the extended family is going along to watch and make it a family trip. We are staying 5 extra days (3 unexcused from school, but she has a high GPA and my son is in honors classes. We also make sure they have any assignments that might be due done before they leave or can be done on the flight and emailed in. Also we would not be taking them out for extra days if their grades were low. I think it depends on the family and the circumstances but I would NOT be happy is the courts told me I would be fined if I did this.

  10. I’m from the UK, and this ruling does have a big impact for families here. Typically going away during school holiday times can double your holiday cost. We have a seven year old – we first took her to WDW before she started school (when she was 4) and went during term times. Last year we went to WDW again, but as she was in school we were restricted to going during the school Easter holidays ( US spring break?) whilst the cost of the Disney hotels was compatible, the flight costs were almost doubled! This is the same wherever you wish to travel – operators know gfamilies are tied down to certain dates, and raise the costs. as parents can be fined or even face jail time for taking kids out of school persistently, this is going to be an ongoing battle in the U.K. To try and reach a fair solution for all.

  11. The fine is currently £60 per parent, per child. So £240 for 2 children. Given the extortionate price hike by travel companies during the school holidays, it’s cheaper for parents to pay the fine, so it probably won’t stop as many UK travellers as imagined. The current exchange rate will probably have more impact. Not all schools impose the fine – at my children’s schools fines are only issued if the child’s attendance is below the school’s attendance target (about 96% in our case). That said, this a deeply unpopular Government policy that seems not only unfair, but an infringement on our parental liberties to make choices for our families.

  12. For a long time, parents have taken their children out of school for WDW holidays. As UK parents tend to visit for 14 day periods and not 5-7 days like their American counterparts (Europeans tend to benefit from far more holidays a year) this is a bigger deal for those from the UK.
    I took my children out, because it suited me and decided I knew best. That said, if the UK allowed all parents to do what they wanted “because they knew what was best” we would have anarchy!
    For whatever reason, we all seem to consider foreign holidays a basic freedom these days – things have indeed changed since I was young! – and we resent state interference, because it is so inconsistent. If the UK could legislate to prevent travel operators from gouging out of term travellers, maybe we couldn’t complain so much, but if they can get away with charging 2-3 times as much for a transatlantic flight because it’s over the Easter period (c£400 increases to C£1200) then parents will continue to find a way around. Just pay the fine folks!

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