Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Term-Time Holidays? Give Me a Break

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Term-Time Holidays? Give Me a Break

Article excerpt

It's half-term, a time for half-arsed arguments in favour of taking children on holiday in term time to join the rest of the baggage on the carousel of school life.

Strict rules on term-time absences were introduced in September 2013 and since then the number of fines has almost trebled, with 50,414 penalty notices issued in the past academic year, up 173 per cent on 2012-13.

Campaigners claim that the fines make families feel as though they are being "criminalised" and some 230,000 people have signed a petition calling for them to be scrapped.

Craig Langman, founder of the Parents Want A Say campaign that organised the petition, says that "it is not for the government to be able to say what a family can and can't do" (see bit.ly/TESholiday).

It's a sentiment echoed by Jon Platt, who last week scored a victory when he had his £120 fine for taking his seven-year-old daughter to Disney World in term time overturned by magistrates. "I cannot allow a local education authority to tell me what is right for my kids - I know what is best for my kids," he said. Which raises the question of why he bothers sending them to school in the first place.

The Local Government Association has now waded in to call for a change in the rules, saying that a "common-sense approach" should be applied instead. What is evident is that common sense has departed on the first EasyJet flight out of Luton.

The government has a duty to provide an education for children. As part of that, both the Department for Education and Ofsted rightly insist on strict attendance - and the evidence why is clear. Research shows that children who miss school for just seven days a year damage their "life chances", and only 31 per cent of children who missed more than 14 days of lessons over two years achieved good grades in the traditionally academic subjects. …

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