You have probably seen the recent Supreme Court ruling earlier this month, which over ruled the Court of Appeals decision in a recent case. A case regarding a father who was taken to Court for not paying a fine he received for taking his child out of school during term time without permission. OK so perhaps if he had paid the £60.00 no further action would have been taken, he would have enjoyed his cheap(er) family holiday in Florida and that would have been the end of it.
He didn’t pay the fine and it brought about a lot of back and forth in the Courts about what is ‘regular attendance’. As regular attendance appeared to be the crux of the matter, put very shortly if a child had regular attendance, i.e. over 90% then he argued they should be allowed some time off. Apparently over 90% isn’t that and accordingly to Lady Hale ruling on the case, removing children from school would have a ‘disruptive effect’ in the class. Essentially therefore regularly now means to ‘attend on all the days and at all the times that a school requires it’.
Meaning, you could ask for permission from the school to take your child out of school and if it is granted then so be it. Off on your term time holiday you go. If it is not granted your child’s absence will be unauthorised and therefore failure to attend school will attract a fine and you will be legally required to pay.
I appreciate the Supreme Court’s sentiment in that there is a difficulty in having a ‘one rule for one and one for another’ approach when it comes to attendance. There may be pupils who do have a near on perfect attendance but equally there will be those who don’t through seemingly no fault of their own. Perhaps they have medical reasons inhibiting their attendance. What would be the right decision in their case? Perhaps a one size fits all is the only fair way to govern such a situation?
I also appreciate that if you are told your child is not allowed those days off then undermining the headteacher or the school doesn’t exactly set the best precedent. Are we not showing are children that if the rules don’t suit, well screw that, we’ll do it anyway? Neither is it fair to expect a teacher to take time out to cover missed work with a pupil or do the necessary to ensure that child has the work they may miss to take with them over their absent period.
As parents we send our children to school to receive an education. It is not up to us to pick and choose when they receive it and it is not up to us to pick and choose what rules we wish to follow. I do believe schooling and a healthy school life for all parties works best with cooperation, from all parties.
I would also point out, I am also the first person to advocate schooling, education and regular (if not perfect, where possible) attendance and honestly don’t think days off should be given lightly.
Now despite all that, or with all that in mind, I am however the first person to admit, we bloody like a holiday. I know it does not mean we cannot go on holiday. It does however mean that if we are not granted permission to take our children out of school a few days early, we will be breaking the law and subject to a fine. Alternatively can pay an average of £1,771.00 more for said holiday out of term time. I don’t know about you, but it stings a little.
Some just will not be able to pay it, lets face it we’re not talking small change. What about the flip side here? What about what holidays teach children? The new experiences, new cultures, broaden horizons. The importance of family time, down time, enjoyment. The importance of the break in routine and the daily grind. I feel holidays and travel have a lot to offer young minds too. Dare I say as much as those last two days at the end of term you spend clearing your draw and painting?
I also can’t help but think, what happened to common sense? If my child does have a near on perfect attendance, works well, attains levels they should be, then will a few days toward the end of the term rock the boat that much? Will their schooling future really be down the pan because we wanted an affordable holiday? I am not convinced. If I take my responsibility as a parent to ensure they attend school ‘regularly’, do their homework, that they work to the best ability and I am satisfied that they are so doing ninety odd percent of the academic year, should I not have some say in whether they are able to miss a couple of days, without being labelled a criminal?
I would point out I am not talking about children who are facing exams. I cannot foresee a situation where I would ever advocate missing school during this period, or even in the two-year period that is GCSEs. Neither am I talking about taking them out of school for say an entire week. However my 5-year-old, who might miss two maybe three days of cutting and sticking…
I would also like a bit more information on what exactly a ‘disruptive effect’ is? I think a little credit should be given to pupils here, are they really going to be disrupted because Sam from science is not there for a few days?
The only thing I will say – a lot of you may be thinking, well ok £60.00 fine is less than the £1,700.00. Swallow it, take your child out of school and pay the fine, it’s still cheaper. Yes it is but one thing that doesn’t sit well is the fact I would be breaking the law in doing so, I would egally be a ‘criminal’ and that doesn’t feel right.
When it comes to my #whatwouldyoudo series I don’t generally have the answer. I often don’t know. I think however this is one of those rare situations where I do know what I would do. I am not saying I am right or that I should be agreed with however would also love to know your thoughts, what would you do? Would you take your children out of school during term time?