Holiday decisions a matter for headteachers

By a County Press reporter

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

 

HEADTEACHERS still have the authority to allow families to take term time holidays, according to Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner.

Since September there has been a steep rise in the number of parents fined for taking their children out of school without authorisation from the headteacher.

It follows an amendment to legislation in September, designed to clamp down on absence rates nationally.

But Mr Turner said it was wrong to suggest the government had banned term time holidays and said the final decision still lay with headteachers.

Yesterday (Monday) Mr Turner questioned education secretary Michael Gove about what guidance had been given to headteachers about what constituted the exceptional circumstances under which they could authorise absence.

Mr Gove said: "As ever, my honourable friend is absolutely right; the decision as to what constitutes exceptional circumstances is a matter for the headteacher. It is important, however, to stress that children wherever possible should be in school and learning, and a drive to reduce truancy and push up the number of days and hours that children spend in school is at the heart of our long-term plan to raise standards in our state schools."

Mr Turner said: "We all accept that children should be in school whenever possible, but heads can agree to a family holiday, and the decision on that is quite rightly a local one.

"Of course headteachers can consult others, but the decision is ultimately theirs. It would be quite wrong for guidance to be given from the government, as these judgements need to be made in the context of individual circumstances and individual schools."

The National Association of Head Teacher (NAHT) said: "We have every sympathy with parents struggling to cope with the cost of holidays in peak times and the demands of a holiday economy, but the presumption has to be that education comes first.

"Pupils need consistency to keep up with their studies and a week out every so often can be problematic further down the line.

"Headteachers will use their discretion to decide what counts as an exceptional circumstance.

"For example, a child whose parents are serving in the armed forces, where tours of duty do not fit with school term times is clearly in a very different position from one whose parents are simply trying to get a better deal on one of many regular holidays."

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