Banning term-time holidays Every Lesson Counts (cheaper school holidays) anyone?

20 Feb

According to various media reports: "Term time holidays will be banned" "Parents will be banned from taking their children out of school to get cheaper holidays under a new Government ­crackdown":

"Education Secretary Michael Gove will unveil the clampdown within days" [or "by the end of the month" (Sunday Telegraph)] Mr Gove will tackle abuse of the system of ­'authorised absence' by parents who get ­permission to remove ­children during term-time to take advantage of cheaper ­holiday deals.

"Headteachers have the discretion to ­approve two weeks of 'authorised absence'. The measure is designed for illness, bereavement and if bad weather prevents a pupil getting to class. But increasingly it is being abused by parents wanting to take their children out of school so they can take holidays out of pricey school holiday times.

"A senior source at the ­Department for Education said: 'The Government will end the distinction between authorised and unauthorised absence ­because any time away from school can be damaging to a child's education'." (Sunday Mirror)

[Although elsewhere, "A Department for Education spokeswoman said: 'This is a leak and we are not commenting on a leak'.”]

"He is to abolish the right of head teachers to 'authorise absence' from the classroom" The move, to be announced, will form a key part of a Government review into school discipline and attendance carried out by Charlie Taylor, a teacher and behaviour expert.

"But it will dismay many parents who can pay up to twice as much for flights and accommodation during busy school holidays than in term-time and have come to expect that they will be able to remove their children from class to save money .

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ongoing economic slump has further encouraged parents to take their children on cheaper term-time holidays. Research by the website said prices increase by up to 42 per cent for a family of four taking a two-week trip to the Algarve during the school holidays." (Sunday Telegraph)

This raises a number of issues.

How widespread is the "anecdotal evidence" that parents are increasingly taking their children on "cheaper term-time holidays"?

Will heads still be able to allow absence for "illness, bereavement and bad weather"?

Surely nobody would disagree with the view that "any time away from school can be damaging to a child's education". Head teachers will no doubt welcome the emphasis on the importance of education and disincentives for parents to take children out of school, but will they be as keen on the extra burden of enforcing the new rules in the face of determined parents?

Is heads' current 'discretion' a help in managing the situation or a hindrance in making them the target of parental ire rather than the Government?

Where will this leave children with family abroad, such as the Indian subcontinent, where some head teachers allow visits during holidays to be extended into term time? Should those families be prevented from attending, for example, the religious ceremonies of family members?

In this litigious age, the DfE will need to ensure that any ban is human rights-compliant to avoid head teachers being placed in an invidious position.

How would fines for parents be enforced and who would do the enforcing? Head teachers could face a burden that would previously have been the responsibility of local authorities and their welfare officers.

Will some parents simply take the fine if it is less than the savings they have made on their holiday deal?

How will heads know if a child's absence is for sickness or a secret holiday?

An alternative would be the loss of the school place for unauthorised absences but that would punish the child for the behaviour of the parents and that would be inappropriate.

How far will academies and free schools have 'freedom' over this? If free schools are truly 'free', shouldn't they have the freedom to decide if parents (some of whom might run the school) can take their children out of school during term time or not?

If a holiday is a one-off educative and life-enhancing experience, rather than a cheap deal to Benidorm, should that not be allowed?

Whatever the Government is planning, it must bring clarity to the system so both schools and parents are clear where they stand.

It seems unlikely that the Government will tackle the root cause of this problem the cynical hiking of prices (such as by 42 per cent) by the holiday industry during the school holidays. It would never dream of interfering with the 'free market' (unless it involves the pay of public sector workers).

Attempts to work with the travel industry appear to have faded into obscurity. Does anybody remember "Every Lesson Counts" from 2005? Back then it was estimated that "one in six truants is away with their parents on a family holiday".

If you don't it recall the scheme, or it didn't register with you at the time, it was when the government:

"struck a deal with travel companies over cheaper holidays in an attempt to stop parents taking their children on term-time trips .Incentives will include discounts, free child places and early booking deals."

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES), as it was then, launched the scheme with the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA).

At that time, the DfES "thought about removing schools’ discretion to grant leave of absence but then decided to keep it Instead it said it would review its guidelines to reinforce the message that term-time holidays should be 'the exception rather than the rule'."

Do let us know your thoughts on this

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5 Responses to “Banning term-time holidays Every Lesson Counts (cheaper school holidays) anyone?”

  1. Sandra Brouet 20. Feb, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for bringing your recent blog post to my attention, once again you have done a great job of spelling out the facts that surround this issue. I share many of your concerns as do others. Knee jerk policy making appears to have struck again. I’m happy to share this.

    Kind regards,

    Sandra Brouet.

  2. David Dengate 20. Feb, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    A fine example of broad brush approaches to a problem that will create a whole raft of new problems, not least because some families cannot possibly take their vacation during the school holidays. A person employed in the tourist industry is perhaps the most obvious example. Why would a hotelier close their business to go on vacation during their most lucrative weeks?

  3. Stuart 21. Feb, 2012 at 1:29 am #

    I agree that all kids should attend every day, but I have young kids that are still in primary school. But due to my job (I work on ships and cannot just choose to be home on a certain day) I have taken my kids out of school so we can have a least a family holiday together, once a year if possible. As the nature of my job, I cannot be guaranteed to be home when the kids are off school, and if I remember correctly, there has been some years that I have not once been home during any of there school holidays.
    When my kids start to attend high school and are subjected to exams then that is a different matter, we will just have to try and work around that somehow????

  4. Joyce Watts 21. Feb, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Blog covers points as usual and agree with points made by other respondents.

    Whilst I am well aware and endorse that children should be in lessons, the problem for parents is enormous. It is not their fault that their income is diminishing or that they are not highly paid and I believe that parents need a holiday. As always those making the diktats are very well off financially AND have extended holidays either side of those for schools another case of 'I'm alright jack’.

    A case could be made for allowing children to have out of term holidays if they are regular attendees and undertake to catch up the work. I know of children and parents who ask for the work or reading they would be doing and take it with them. My grandsons took their pc with them and always managed to do some work.

    These ill thought out diktats do nothing for parents, teachers, children or for government support. Those with money can pay for private tuition and I know of some parents who go without to do just that.

    What about allowing those with good attendance being given permission? Why should they be penalised along with the truants?

  5. Andrew Phillips 21. Feb, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Independent schools have shorter terms and longer holidays than state schools. Do pupils at independent schools require less schooling?

    The shorter independent school terms allow parents to begin holidays before the vast majority of schools have broken up – thereby taking advantage of cheaper prices. This is an advantage for richer parents (who are in less need of that advantage) while those on lower incomes (who would benefit from such an advantage)lose out.

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