Term-time absences

Changes to the 2006 Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations mean that since 1st September 2013 head teachers in England can only authorise absences during term time in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Many families feel strongly about this issue. Indeed, over 100,000 people signed a Government petition calling for a two week holiday allowance across term time which led to a debate on this issue in Parliament on the October 26.

Regular attendance at school is an important part of ensuring that children and young people can fulfil their potential. Children should be in school for the maximum amount of time.

However, I recognise the extra costs involved in taking holidays during peak times in the summer months. Many people are seeing their incomes squeezed and while holiday time price fluctuations are a commercial reality, it is important to ensure that the travel market is functioning properly so that consumers are getting a fair deal.

I would like to see a proper analysis of holiday prices and careful consideration of whether any action is needed to address the holiday prices market. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) who would have been well placed to carry out such an investigation and it is unfortunate it was abolished by the Coalition Government.

The government’s policy is now muddled and chaotic following the recent magistrate’s decision not to fine a parent for taking their child out of school. School leaders too want more guidance on what constitutes authorising exceptional circumstances when a child can be taken out of school during term time yet the government has failed to deliver on this.

All schools work really hard at very high attendance and parents want their children to do well yet irresponsible holiday companies that hike up prices put some parents in an impossible position.

Rather than relaxing the rules on school attendance we should be exposing holiday companies that are ripping off parents.

I hope the current Government listen carefully to the concerns that are being raised by parents and bear in mind the financial strain that many households are under at the current time.