OPINION: Rising costs will take their toll on families this Easter break

Will it be a stay-at-home Easter holidays for school children due to the increased cost of living?

Will it be a stay-at-home Easter holidays for school children due to the increased cost of living? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I joke with my husband, a teacher, that the holidays almost seem endless as it’s only ever a few weeks before he’s home again. 

He looks at me as if I’ve got no idea and my mum, a retired teacher, and he, share glances with each other to confirm that’s exactly what they think. 

They know, my mum says, how hard teaching is, and having a break on the horizon to recoup and reset is entirely necessary to avoid burn out.

She tells me the enormity and responsibility is such that school holidays are what save teachers. The dangling carrot of a break pulls them through the weeks, and though she loved her job, just as my husband does now, it was one which required a lot of her energy, could never be done half-heartedly and was always moving in terms of goal posts.

“Time off” isn’t a chance to down tools as a teacher, she tells me, but one which is to be utilised while the children are not there requiring attention, time in order to prepare for when they are. So, while I jest with my husband that he’s often off work, I do know that of course, he’s never actually away from it.

Weekends, evenings, and school holidays are always filled for his job and though he spends time with us as well, it means he’s often up late to get everything done.

We are so very lucky to have people who can do that. I couldn’t. Teachers are incredible and I salute them for the time, effort and indeed the personal finances they put into teaching. It’s a true vocation of that I’m certain, for it could never be said they’re in it for the cash.

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Talking of cash, for us parents now the holidays have hit, the penny pot has never felt so diminished, am I right?

My household energy prices have just risen by more than £200 a month, a notion which makes me feel a bit sick just writing it, not to mention the cost of fuel rising alongside everything else, making entertaining the kids in the holidays that much harder. But kids, like teachers, need the break from school too.

The chance to recharge and get back on top form to hit another term running. But with the cost of absolutely everything being sky high, for parents wanting to keep the kids busy, it’s a bit daunting having them home for a fortnight.

Another mother looked at me in the gym changing room yesterday, as we both of us grappled with our over-tired children after a swim, and she said: “Only two more weeks…” 

This is the kind of conversation with other parents I usually shy away from, not quite understanding why they feel that way, yet right now, I get it. The expense of entertaining is going to be a tougher one than I’ve experienced before as without even a sniff at a day out, the budget is pretty low.

Thank goodness I’m in a position to tighten my belt. I can turn my heating down, economise on the food shop and make other changes. What about the families already on the last rung?

Did you know the Conservative-controlled county council here in Norfolk has confirmed it will not be providing free school meals for low-income families this holiday? It suggests instead that parents send their kids to “holiday camps” if they want to eat.

Almost like they have no idea on the importance of family time and taking the days away from school to prepare their bodies and minds for learning when they go back. If we continue to relegate the nurture of children living in low-income families then nothing will ever get better.

Children from all backgrounds, no matter what their parents earn, deserve the chance to eat, be warm and enjoy time with their families. A basic human right. Children don’t ask to be born into poverty and yet if they are held down within it, the cycle perpetuates for generations.

We have teachers who work tirelessly, even in their own time, which of course, is unpaid. Educators putting their own finances into resources for the children they teach to be able to learn.

Meanwhile we have a government who have ideals about the figure each child needs spent on their education, providing a fraction of that costs to schools. Now, on top of having the universal credit uplift withdrawn, low-income families in Norfolk are additionally suffering since they are no longer receiving meal vouchers for this Easter. 

These are very often hard-working parents, who are now having to choose between heating or food this break, let alone holiday treats to enrich their children. 

We need to urge Norfolk County Council to reconsider this strange move which diminishes opportunity for a better future. We have good teachers looking out for the children of our future, but it needs backing, they can’t do it alone.

Ruth Davies has a parenting blog at www.rocknrollerbaby.co.uk