Thursday, 7 February 2013

School attendance policy

Taking children out of school for family holidays - that classic example of how difficult it is to  balance state protection of the vulnerable and individual freedom - has raised its head again.

I was nosing around on the Department of Education's website to see what the current situation is and came across the following in a letter from the Department's Expert Adviser on Behaviour (Charlie Taylor) to the Secretary of State (Michael Gove) in July 2012:

"Strengthening the regulations on term time holidays

Officials are revising the regulations on when schools can grant leave of absence and will consult on them in the autumn. Subject to Parliamentary approval this change will come into force from September 2013.
The new regulations will address the misconception that parents are entitled to family holidays during term time. Parents will still be able to request leave of absence, but it will be made clear that this should be granted at the head teacher's discretion and only in exceptional circumstances."

I know that the intention behind these moves is to try to maximise children's exam results but I have a deep-seated disquiet with it. Marshfield friends will remember how this issue arose when the primary school changed their discretionary authorised absence policy (a concept which Mr Taylor disapproves of) from 10 to 5 days.  I won't rehearse all the reasons why 30 out of  the 31 parents we spoke to then disliked the policy change. Not yet.

I've sent in Freedom of Information Act requests to see understand the consultation process, the results, the proposed changes to the regulations and the process involved in it becoming law. I missed the consultation first time round - did anyone else hear about it?

Click here to link to the full report, response and progress report of the Taylor Report on improving school  attendance.

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