Tales From the Heads Office #5

Having retired as a primary head teacher & following the suggestion of my dear friend Paula this post is part of an occasional series about the highs & lows of my headship career. It spanned 13 years & included 3 schools. I hope you enjoy my tales!




My dear friend Chris over at Thinly Spread  started a conversation on Twitter when England were playing Algeria. Some schools in her area have announced that they would be closing early on Wednesday because England will be playing Slovenia at 3pm. She was interested in opinions.

Well, following my post  ‘Attendance’     I have to say that this is just not on! The most important thing is for children to be in school & to understand that is where they should be. That is the mantra of schools all over the country. However, because we have 11 men chasing a coloured ball that does not bounce in the right way (that’s what they have said!) children are being encouraged to miss school.

When was the law passed that football was the religion to be followed by all of us living in England? Surely that is the only excuse, well apart from royal weddings & funerals, when schools are allowed to close early or have the day off.

In 2002 when the world cup was held in Japan & South Korea the start of the games was early in the morning. As a school we had a real problem with attendance & knew if the children stayed at home to watch the match, they would not come in later. So, we arranged to have a couple of TVs in the Hall. We also put on free breakfasts (this was well before breakfast clubs). We also sent messages to parents that if children did not come into school their attendance would be unauthorised. I think we may have mentioned some other threat such as not going on the class trip as well (!)but the result was they all came in. The atmosphere in Hall was amazing! A couple of staff put up flags & banners & the children cheered & clapped & were proper supporters. It meant that those who did not like football (yes there are such beings) were able to come into school as normal & get on with their day.

What I find so worrying as well annoying about all this is the way football has been imposed on our lives. Those of you who follow my blog will know that I’m married to someone who plays football & is a football fan. I quite enjoy a good game & we do go to matches. So the game is not foreign to me. However, I want children to get a balanced view of the world & especially of sport. They should try all sorts but this obsession with football means that they will not get this. It also means that for schools there is little opportunity for them to do this because ‘they only want to play football’!

By closing school or allowing children to leave early to watch a football match sends completely the wrong message & should not be happening! They do not get time off for Wimbledon or the Olympics!

Is your school closing early? Are your children keen to see the match (especially after the last performance!)

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  • On a parenting site I frequent there are a lot of parents saying that to close half an hour early and have parents complaining about it is a tad over-reactive.

    I personally don’t agree – my children are to be in school for a certain length of time and I expect the teachers to comply with that. It would be frowned upon if I turned up to school one day and announced that I was taking my child home early so that we could go and play on the park – in fact, I’m sure I would be refused.

    I know I can’t leave work early on that day to compensate for my child’s school closing (if it was – in our case, it isn’t).

    Kids should be out kicking a football, not watching one being kicked on TV.

  • Thanks for picking up on this one Julia!

    It is absolute madness. I understand the thinking behind it (avoiding truancy at KS4+, not sure that holds water in KS1/2 though!) but I think it is sending out all the wrong messages. I am so tired of football being presented as THE cultural event in this country and of badly behaved over paid sportsmen being role models for our youngsters.

    They could by all means show it in school if they have to but they should not be shutting the school. Schools cannot, with any integrity, send out letters telling parents they must not take their children out of school with this as a precedent.

  • I’m horrified at this too. Did this really happen? (I live in a cave, sorry).

  • Oh my. I can’t imagine them doing this for a sporting event over here, but you never know.

  • VickyRedshaw

    My school is also closing at 2.30pm on Wednesday for this. I was appalled when it was announced and to think that I’ve been so busy trying to promote attendance within my class! I’ll be there until my normal “leaving” time and I’m hoping for the roads to be nice and quiet.

    However, I trust that next year when the Rugby World Cup is in Australia that my school will be closing at the times that England are playing. No?

    It’s sending the wrong message to alot of children and I’ve made it quite clear that I will be there until the “normal” time of 3.15pm. Apparently a couple of children want to stay with me because it’s more fun at school than it is at home!

  • Emma Dawson

    My school (primary) is allowing the children that want to watch the match to come to the hall at 3 (we finish at 3.15) and watch the match to the end. What I do mind is that as a staff we are being expected to supervise the children until 4.45 without being asked if we minded and I for one don’t care about football and don’t want to watch. It wouldn’t be so bad if, as some other commenters have said, it was the final, but I don’t see why this game is so important and it sends out a bad message to the children that football is more important that school.

    • Surely there would be enough staff to supervise. Can children go home at 3.15 if they want to? May be quite disruptive. I don’t understand any of it really!

  • Sorry I don’t get it. Why would you close the schools for World cup? I really really don’t get it.

  • Paula

    Is this true?! I can’t understand why this would happen. If, by some miracle, England were to make it to the final I can appreciate that this might be considered as a once in a lifetime event and therefore appropriate that the school could either extend its hours to include showing the match or allow children to leave early to watch at home.

    But to make a decision to close the school completely just seems very odd – where do you draw the line?!

  • elsie

    I can understand anger at early closure, but why shouldn’t a school screen an important match of any type – not just football?

    They rarely clash with school lesson times, but on the odd occasions that they do, I think there is a case for allowing pupils to see the match.

    I’m happy for my son to stay on at school to watch the match. If he came home, he’d miss the first half. At least I know where he is!

  • I would be cross if my sons school was doing this, luckily they aren’t. I am not at all a football fan and this world cup fever annoys me anyway, why does the world stop or normal rules not apply because of a ball?? I am glad it is only on every 4 years:) Jen.

  • My boys primary is not showing the games or closing early. I wouldnt be happy if they did

  • elsie

    My son’s secondary school is showing the match in the hall. Lessons finish at 3pm normally, so it’s not a problem in that way.

    As both staff and pupils want to see the game – it’s a way of everyone enjoting it. Other half has booked a half day off work to watch the match

  • I’m pretty amazed and shocked that they would close a school for this? It’s not like they’d give them time off for the olympics or any other posrt, is it? So why football? Who decreed that football had suddenly become so important?

    And should school really be pushing a sport whose players are all over the TV, magazines and newspapers advertising expensive designer stuff and being involved in all sorts of scandals? not much of an example of how to live ones life, huh?

  • I’d not heard of this. I’d be pretty horrified if my childrens school was closing early to be honest, and there is no way that I’d keep them off school so that they could watch a football match either. I mean ahem… priorities?

    I’m all for children missing a bit of school for something educational or life enhancing like travel, but a football match???

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