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 Âcrackdown":
"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 Â'authorised absence' by parents who get Âpermission to remove Âchildren during term-time to take advantage of cheaper Âholiday deals.
"Headteachers have the discretion to Âapprove 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 ÂDepartment for Education said: 'The Government will end the distinction between authorised and unauthorised absence Âbecause 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 travelsupermarket.com 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'."
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