News Headlines     |     


Dear Mr Gove...You are talking utter tosh - James Cove, Dad.
Saturday May 31, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

Recent legislation has stopped Headteachers allowing parents to take their children out of school for a holiday; skiing or otherwise. The PlanetSKI content editor looks back...

My eldest son, Alex, has recently turned 20-years old.

He has just completed his second year studying Sports and Exercise Science at University in Oxford and he'll be doing his Finals next summer.

My wife and I are quietly proud and rather pleased with what he has acheived so far.

He qualified as a BASI ski instructor at 16-years old, after taking an instructors' course during the summer at the Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead. He then gained his next level a year later on a summer glacier course at Hintertux in Austria. 

Last winter he worked part-time in Verbier during his University holidays teaching with the local Verbier ski school, European Snowsport.

He has a First Aid qualification and has completed Child Protection modules.

As a 10-year old he trained in Tignes with the ex-Winter Olympic athlete, Emma Carrick-Anderson, during his October half-term holiday and was inspired by her. 

We took a day off school before the course as flights were cheaper and it allowed him to acclimatise to exercise at 3,000m and have a warm-up day.

In 2011 he was one of three British children invited to take part in the inaugural Junior Freeride World Tour in Switzerland, though it was sadly called off as the weather closed in.

It was a fabulous experience none-the-less.

He was given permission by the school to miss lessons in order to take part.

It has turned out that sport is more than an interest for him.

He wants to make a career out of it, in what is a multi-billion pound industry with numerous job opportunites and career options.

Last year he qualified as a Level 2 fitness trainer and will be taking further exams shortly.

This summer he has job working in a pub in Oxford, but he is giving up 2 days a week to volunteer for a specialist re-habilitation programme in the city that helps people with severe injuries re-adjust to life through sport.

"It just seems a really worthwhile thing to do," he told me when I asked why he was working for free.

Next month he travels to Mt Blanc in France, as part of his university course, and is conducting research on how altitude affects the human body.

To say he wouldn't be in this position if he hadn't taken a few ski holidays in term time when he was at Primary school is clearly ridiculous. He would have skied anyway.

But it certainly played a large part; skiing several weeks a year before he was 8-years old didn't do him any harm and fired a passion.

He wouldn't have been able to do it without occasional time off school.

Skiing and time in the mountains has shaped the first two decades of his life and will almost certainly stay with him for the rest.

The Education Secretary, Michael Gove MP, seems to want to stop that with his blanket rules and regulations.

Alex CoveAlex, aged 8.

Alex CoveAlex, aged 10.

In the classroomIn the ski school classroom

When Alex was 5-years old we obtained permission of the headmistress of his school, All Saints Primary School in Putney, to take him on a family ski holiday during term time.

She thought it a good idea to travel, meet children from other nationalities, participate in sport and experience the mountains.

Christmas and New Year were far too expensive for us, but the weeks before and after were within our budget.

We continued taking him out of school for some days here and there for the next few years until we decided it might affect his schooling.

It was OUR choice, as HIS parents.

In France one year we specifically put him into a local French ski school.

He was the only English child in the class and he met girls and boys of his age from a wide variety of countries across Europe.

School classesFrench class

While younger he missed the final week of the Xmas term a few times and we regret he didn't get a role in the school pantomime.

But he didn't want to act, he wanted to ski.

Alex CoveAlex, aged 11.

One year he missed the first few days at the beginning of the January term, but the flights were considerably cheaper two days after the schools went back rather than the two days before.

Everything he missed out at school always he caught up with straightaway. Often he did the work in advance.

We took him out of school for a few days around half term if it meant we could afford to go skiing and we did the same with his younger sister, Tashie, and younger brother, Max. 

Kids at playKids at play

We made sure they caught up on all their school work and they studied while on holidays.

Kids at workKids at work

On one holiday in Verbier, Switzerland, we took before Easter they went to the Verbier Language School each day after skiing to learn French and we made them practice their French whenever possible.

Tashie, now 17-years old, went on to study French at AS-Level. 

It may or may not have encouraged her, but it certainly didn't harm her interest in languages.

I have taken Alex, Tashie and Max up to the glaciers and passed on my limited knowledge of the alpine landscapes and how the mountains ranges were formed. 

They have seen climate change at first hand and witnessed extreme weather.

They have all spent nights in mountain huts with mountain guides and listened to their tales; unique experiences that can not be replicated in a classroom in South-West London.

Alex studied Geography at A Level in 2012 and Max, currently 15-years old, is planning to do the same.

Both have seen with their own eyes in the mountains what is written between the covers of school text books.

Last winter Max and I spent a night at the Pic du Midi observatory in the Hautes-Pyrenees seeing the work the scientists have done over the years; see here for a report on our visit.

He didn't miss any school, but if he had needed to for this unique experience then he should have been granted it.

Tourist telescopeThe Cove's Geography Field Trip, Pic du Midi











In 2007, with Alex aged 13-years old, we wanted to go and watch the Lauberhorn World Cup race in Wengen.

By that time my wife and I didn't want him to miss any school days.

He could have pulled a sickie but we decided that now he should not miss school and exams were looming.

It was OUR choice as HIS parents.

Instead we left for Switzerland after school on Friday and caught the last flight back on Sunday. 

I have a favoured position as a ski journalist and at the Lauberhorn Alex met Bode Miller, along with a host of other racers, and saw behind the scenes of one of the greatest ski races in the world.

It was highly educational and he remembers the experience to this day.

He also had pretty good view of the race.

Not bad for a 13-year old.

Alex CoveAlex, aged 13.

All three children have gained independence, confidence and self-discipline through their time in the mountains - during holidays and the other times when we chose to take them out.

They are all now accomplished skiers and it is part of their life and ours.

We are a skiing family.

The new laws are preventing other families from choosing to do the same, or making them into law-breakers. 

Each parent can be fined £60 and that rises to £120 if unpaid within a week.  If the parent refuses to pay for reasons of principle they can be fined up to £2,500 with three years in prison.

In my view as long as the Head Teacher agrees, and provided a child's attendance and school records are up to scratch, then parents should be able to take their own child out of school for a holiday. 

Parents should have, as a right, up to 10 days per year for a holiday subject to school approval.

It is a parents' choice if they conclude their child will get more out of a few days in the mountains than a similar time in the classroom.

It is a decision for parents, not the State.

The recent legislation is an infringement into family life and should be reversed.

I am just pleased I was able to take all my three children out of school for a few days each winter when they were young without the threat of fines and black marks on a school record.

As I look back I can see absolutely no detrimental impact on their education and schooling whatsoever.

Quite the opposite in fact.

I do not see lost school days, but rather expanded experiences and a whole range of positive benefits.

The recent legislation will probably not be reversed; but it should be.

For the sake of the children.

Alex Cove Alex at the Freeride World Tour, aged 17.

Alex Cove Alex at the FWT, aged 17.

Alex Cove Alex teaching, aged 19.

Father and sonFather and son at work

For a recent PlanetSKI news article on the law and how one group of parents is considering going to the European Court of Human Rights then see here.

School's OutSchool's Out

Son and fatherSon and father

The article has provoked some debate over on our Facebook pages. If you want to read the comments or join in then here is the PlanetSKI Facebook page.

While James has also posted the story on his personal Facebook page.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

For the spirit of the mountains 

Related Articles

TOP TIPS FOR SKIING WITH CHILDREN (Wednesday December 11, 2019)
KITTING OUT THE KIDS (Monday October 21, 2019)
NORTHERN EXPOSURE (Tuesday October 1, 2019)
OUR TIPS FOR FAMILY SKIING (Monday April 1, 2019)

With thanks to our main sponsors...

Platinum partners

Bronze partners