Tuesday, 17 November 2015

End term-time holiday ban, say MPs

BRITISH MPs have called for a review of the policy that outlaws school term-time absences other than in “exceptional” circumstances. 

The ban on term-time holidays, which has led to thousands of parents being fined, is ‘blatantly unfair; and is undermining the importance of family life, MPs claimed in a House of Commons debate.

The debate also highlighted the ban’s negative impact on the UK tourist industry, which has lost business during term time. MPs heard that the Cornish economy had lost an estimated £44 million in 2014 as a result of the policy.

Leading the debate, Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: ‘Education is clearly vitally important. But it is not the only important thing in a child’s upbringing. While I support the aim of getting children to attend school regularly, I fundamentally disagree that telling parents when they can and cannot take their children on holiday is the job of the state. Every child is unique, and it should be for parents to decide what is right and best.’

He said the restrictions meant people who work in tourist areas were unable to take family holidays, as were lower- and even middle-income families who could not afford to go on holiday during peak periods.

The debate was triggered by a petition on the issue that attracted more than 120,000 signatures in a month.

Before the rules were introduced in 2013, head teachers had discretion to grant up to two weeks’ term-time leave to pupils with good attendance records. Now, if a parent takes a child out of school without the authority of the head teacher, they can be fined £60 per child by the local authority, rising to £120 if unpaid after three weeks.

The Local Government Association, representing 370 councils and boroughs across the country, has also called for changes.

A Department for Education spokesman said it was a myth that missing school even for a short time was harmless to a child’s education. ‘Our evidence shows that missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances. Heads and teachers are now firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and most recent figures show we have made real progress – with 200,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school compared with five years ago.’

Go Holiday news : www.govillasandcottages.co.uk

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