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School term-time holidays: ‘Most parents take them’

School term-time holidays: ‘Most parents take them’

BBC |April 26, 2012

By Katherine Sellgren BBC News education reporter
More than half of parents (55%) in England admit having taken a child on holiday during term time, a poll suggests.

And more than a quarter of the 2,000 polled plan to take their children out of school for a holiday this year.

The prospect of fines was unlikely to put them off, they said.

The survey by LV travel insurance found cost and difficulties getting time off work during peak times were the main reasons behind this.

The Department for Education (DfE) said schools were expected to take a “tough line” on requests to miss lessons.

One in five (20%) parents said they had sought their school’s permission for a term-time holiday and been refused.

One in eight (12%) admitted having lied in order take their children out of school for a holiday.

The most common excuses included pretending their child was sick (35%), visiting sick relatives (20%), a family wedding (18%) and a trip for educational purposes (16%).

More than half (57%) of those surveyed said they took their children out of school for a holiday because it was cheaper, with a third (32%) saying they could not afford a break during the school holidays.

A quarter (26%) said that they, or their partner, could not get time off work during school holidays.

Just under half (43%) said they would take their child out of class for a week, while 30% said their holiday would be shorter than this.


The survey, conducted by ICM, showed 43% of parents believed the cost of a fine was outweighed by the savings made by booking an off-peak holiday.

Issuing fines is one of the last resorts for schools to deal with absence problems, including parents who take their child on holiday during term time without permission from the school.

A parent issued with a fine has 28 days to pay £50 – if they fail, it is doubled.

If the fine is not paid after 42 days, the school or local authority has to withdraw the penalty notice, with the only further option being for local authorities to prosecute parents for the offence.

More than 32,600 penalty notices for school absence were issued to parents last year, and more than 127,000 have been issued since the scheme was introduced in 2004.

However, about half went unpaid or were withdrawn.

‘Not surprising’

Selwyn Fernandes, managing director of LV travel insurance, said: “The difference in price for taking a trip during the school holidays and during term time is huge.”

He said it was “not surprising” that many parents were willing to risk a fine “when they can save 10 times that by holidaying outside of the peak season”.

But the government’s “behaviour tsar”, Charlie Taylor, has called for a clampdown on term-time holidays.

A DfE spokeswoman said schools were expected to take a “tough line” on requests to miss lessons, as a few days off could leave youngsters struggling to catch up.

“It’s down to individual schools to consider requests for holiday absence during term time,” she said.

“Each request can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, but it is entirely at the head teacher’s discretion, and is not a parental right.”


Are Fines The Best Way To Improve Attendance in Schools?

Truancy fines should be deducted from child benefit, says behaviour adviser

Charlie Taylor, the government’s behaviour advisor has advocated deducting fines for truancy from families’ child benefit payments. The suggestion forms part of a package of proposals published on 16th April 2012 designed to reduce schools’ truancy levels. The proposals also include increasing the current fines levied to £60 or £120 if they aren’t paid within 28 days. Unpaid fines would be recovered from child benefit. For families not in receipt of child benefit the outstanding sum would be recovered through the county courts. Taylor’s review will also recommend a clampdown on term-time holidays and Ofsted based time targets for reducing truancy in schools where there are exceptionally high levels of absenteeism. As part of his announcement Charlie Taylor will say:

“We know that some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine. It means the penalty has no effect and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover. Recouping the fines through child benefit … will strengthen and simplify the system. It would give headteachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part.”

The review is partially based on a report of the effectiveness of fines which included a survey of schools and local authorities. 79% of LAs said that penalty notices were either “very successful” or “fairly successful” in improving school attendance. But schools believed that court action was a long winded process that didn’t achieve much.  Fines for school absences were introduced by the last Labour administration in 2004 and since then 127,000 penalty notices have been issued including 32,600 last year. Of these approximately half have been unpaid or withdrawn. Under the current system penalty notices have to be withdrawn by LAs if they are unpaid after 42 days.

Are Fines The Best Way To Improve Attendance in Schools?

At first glance it would appear to be a simple, common sense response to the issue of non-payment of fines.  In theory it would seem to be a straightforward method of ensuring that unpaid penalties are received.  But, we believe that there is more to this than meets the eye.  Firstly, if 50% of the fines aren’t paid one must consider the reasons behind this high failure rate of the penalty notice. Is it because the families concerned cannot afford to pay the penalties or is it because they are refusing to pay out of a lack of respect for authority? A comparison of the percentage of penalties paid with the response of the LAs on improvement in attendance rates would suggest that in many cases the serving of the fine is enough to encourage increased attendance even if the fine is not actually paid.  It doesn’t take too much analysis to realise that this would be due to the majority of families involved being unable to afford the fines. In these cases therefore, to actually impose the fine would only create further hardship for families who are already at the lower end of the income scale.  This is not to say that a small minority of parents are just abusing the system and more stringent measures are required in those situations.

Furthermore, the proposed measures would also penalise parents wishing to take their children out of school for term-time holidays.  According to an article in the Guardian on 12th February 2012 approximately 4.5m school days are missed due to term-time holidays. In that piece the main reason given for this is the lower cost of out of season holidays. Additionally, Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders points out that the 10 days afforded to some families are discretionary and not an actual right but have come to be seen as a cultural expectation.  But even in this area of absenteeism there are at least two types of family involved and matters are not black and white: there are those who cannot afford holidays during the school break and there are families who need to work during the holidays. Some of Kip McGrath Scunthorpe’s parents run businesses that require them to work during the Summer and taking a holiday during July and August would cost them a high proportion of their annual income. At least one school head was unwilling to accept this viewpoint and pressed ahead with fining the parents.

The reality, is that the system does not meet the requirements of 21st Century families. Many parents are unable to afford holidays if they are not taken during term-time and the proposals will do nothing more than penalise hardworking parents for trying to spend quality time with their children by providing them with a family holiday.  If a child is removed from school for a term-time holiday of 10 days every year for their school career up to Year 11 they will miss approximately 5% of their schooling; a figure which falls well below the DfE’s own level of 15% absenteeism as being persistent truanting and a cause for concern. In an ideal world every child would have a 100% attendance record but that is simply not a realistic expectation.  So are we going to fine parents who choose to remove their children for limited periods with positive motivations?

What Is The Solution?

This country is home to a wide variety of families from wide-ranging socio-economic backgrounds and schools seek to educate children with a whole host of educational, emotional and physical needs.  Every family is different to the next one. Therefore, to use a one size fits all approach is narrow minded and misguided.

  • With regard to term-time holidays each family’s circumstances must be taken into account regardless of the school’s overall attendance rates. If a child is meeting their educational targets and their attendance is generally very good there should be no reason to refuse the parents’ request for a term-time absence.  If however, the child’s attendance is poor and they are already behind in their education then it isn’t reasonable for the parents to try to remove them during term-time for a holiday. In these cases it might be possible to look at imposing a compulsory, Summer catch up programme for the student to complete at the parent’s expense through a local tuition centre. At Kip McGrath Scunthorpe we run a successful Summer School every August to help prevent children from falling behind during the long Summer holidays.  Rather than levying a fine which probably won’t be paid and does nothing to benefit the child’s education even if is, there will be an educational gain and the parent may feel more motivated to accept the penalty because they will see a postive outcome for their child.
  • General absenteeism is not so easy to solve and each family’s case must be considered on it’s merits. For example, if a parent drops a child off at school on their way to work and the child fails to attend without the parent’s knowledge is it fair to penalise the parent? Any responsibility should fall on the school if they allow the child to leave the premises during the school day or the child if they fail to attend without the parent’s knowledge. Investigations would need to be made to find out why the child is playing truant. If a parent is failing to send their child to school then support mechanisms must be put in place if there are valid reasons why they are unable to cope. An article in the Guardian on 3rd April 2012 on kinder ways to tackle truancy highlighted the work of School Home Support, a charity that provides support workers in schools whose job is to identify children with low attendance and provide support for them and their families.

This does not mean that some kind of financial penalty would never be appropriate but there are too many reasons for absenteesim and too many children who are absent because of unmet needs. Arbitrary fines will simply further disenfranchise those who already mistrust authority, unnecessarily penalise hard-working families who want to spend quality time with their children and drive a percentage of deprived families deeper into poverty when it may well be the effects of poverty that is causing the low attendance in the first place. Taking things all round we would recommend a more creative and flexible approach that shows compassion for the less well off and meets the needs of modern families.

In Case You Missed It: This Weeks Education News


So you needn’t worry if you don’t have time to scour the internet for all the latest news as this service will provide you with links to the most topical articles in one place.


BBC NEWS – Boys now reading as well as girls, study suggests

Boys appear to have caught up with girls on reading ability, research into what children are reading for pleasure suggests………..


THE GUARDIAN – Gove tells schools to think local in history lessons

Education secretary gives English Heritage £2.7m in programme to revamp the history curriculum…………..



BBC NEWS – Universities warn on overseas students income loss

University heads are warning that the tightening of student visa rules risks undermining the drive to raise income from overseas students……..


BBC NEWS – Rise in EU students applying to Scottish universities

There has been a 6% rise in the number of European Union students applying to Scotland’s universities this autumn…….


BBC NEWS – Attempts to get poor students to university ‘failing’

Attempts to encourage children from poorer homes to go to university have failed, according to a study………..



DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION – Academy freedoms for Pupil Referral Units

The Government’s Behaviour Advisor Charlie Taylor has called on the best Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) to take advantage of academy freedoms, to drive up quality of education and develop closer relationships with schools in their area……….



BBC NEWS – Pay school governors – Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw

Governors of struggling schools in England should be paid, the new chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has said………



DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION – Vision for cultural education will inspire all children and enrich lives ~ A response to the Henley Review of Cultural Education

New national youth dance company to be formed. The first national youth dance company is to be set up as part of a review designed to ensure all children have their lives enriched by cultural education………..



DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION – £50 million summer school fund launched to help disadvantaged children into secondary school 

A £50 million summer schools fund to help the most disadvantaged pupils opens today. The money will help up to 100,000 pupils making the transition from primary to secondary school, a time when Ofsted research shows performance can take a significant dip……..



THE GUARDIAN – The schools crusade that links Michael Gove to Rupert Murdoch

Michael Gove meets Rupert Murdoch frequently and is an enthusiastic backer of the ideas put forward by the head of his education division…………..

BBC NEWS – Secondary school places in England to be announced

Hundreds of thousands of children in England are finding out whether they have a place at the secondary schools they want to go to…….


THE GUARDIAN – Should Dominique Strauss-Kahn come to Cambridge?

There’s a petition campaigning for the Cambridge Union to withdraw his invitation. But doesn’t free speech extend to the former IMF chief too?…….


THE GUARDIAN – Atlantic Records founder bequeaths £26m to Oxford University students

Ahmet Ertegun and widow Mica to fund graduate scholarships in biggest donation for humanities students in university’s history………….


Maths Tutors Scunthorpe – In Case You Missed It: This Weeks Education News

Starting from this Saturday (25th February 2012) we will be publishing a weekly round up of the weeks UK education news from a variety of news sources. So you needn’t worry if you don’t have time to scour the internet for all the latest news as this service will provide you with links to the most topical articles in one place.


THE GUARDIAN – Let for-profit firms transform weak state schools, urges former headteacher

Trevor Averre-Beeson, education director at Lilac Sky Schools (the UK’s largest for profit education firm) advocates a greater role for his and other for profit companies in our education system, a view with which the DfE agrees. But not everybody is of the same opinion and according to some reports their ablity to transform failing schools is not guaranteed.


NEW STATESMAN – The case against for-profit schools                   

A New Statesman article putting forward what it believes to be a compelling case against for profit companies taking over state maintained schools.



BBC RADIO 4 – The Report

A report into the apparently unorthodoox methods being employed by Michael Gove and the DfE to convert schools into academies against their will.



THE TELEGRAPH – More teenagers will fail A-levels and GCSEs as exam system toughened up, warns Michael Gove

The Government announces plans to make schools based qualifications tougher but warns that raising the standards will come at a price.


THE GUARDIAN – Exam boards ordered to tighten up four GCSEs

The exams regulator Ofqual has announced changes to some of the EBacc GCSEs to ensure students gain a broader understanding of the subjects.



THE GUARDIAN – Gove to crack down on term-time holidays

A leaked report this week revealed unconfirmed plans by Michael Gove to impose tougher penalties on parents who take their children out of school during term time as well as tougher fines for truancy.


BBC NEWS – Special educational needs: MPs shocked by teens’ plight

A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee is badly failing special educational needs school leavers and blighting their life chances.


DAILY MAIL – One in seven Cambridge students ‘has sold drugs to help pay their way through university

A worrying report into the increasing prevalance of drug use and drug selling amongst UK undergraduates.


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