Term time holidays - minister orders schools to continue to fine parents

(136 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 09-Jun-16 21:30:39

Hello all

More news on the fraught question of term-time holidays.

You might remember that a recent high court ruling overturned a fine imposed on a parent who'd taken their child out of school for a family holiday. Today, however, schools minister Nick Gibb has ordered headteachers to continue to fine families whose children are absent without permission during term time.

Do let us know what you think - and if you're completely confuzzled and bewildered, we've got more information on what's what over here.

meditrina Thu 09-Jun-16 21:32:49

It was announced today that the LA are appealing.

I think we'll have to wait until that is heard before there's any real change to the fines regime.

MyFullHouse Thu 09-Jun-16 23:15:38

I think it's all stuff and nonsense. My parents took us out every year and it didn't stop me gaining my degree.

I think the law is too controlling. Life isn't all about education, important though that is. Life is important too, and sometimes there's just more to life than school.

The law should be aimed at total piss-takers, not your average conscientious family.

LuluSLR Thu 09-Jun-16 23:37:18

Fines are only issued once the absence falls below 90% which is about three weeks...

Jojay Thu 09-Jun-16 23:53:17

That's not true Lulu.

VulpesVulpes Fri 10-Jun-16 00:14:56

It seems a bit harsh considering this is a country where home schooling is legal. Not complaining about home schooling (actually love the idea), just think it seems ridiculous that a child doesn't legally need to be in school at all but when they are registered then they can't even take a few days off in term time without parents being fined.

branofthemist Fri 10-Jun-16 05:54:25

In my experience and according to the head at my dds school and the head at my ds' school. If attendance is still good they don't find in our area. Above 90%.

Personally I think this whole thing is ridiculous. It's cost a fortune to fight and it's not even working.

Parents who don't send their kids to school regularly because They can't be arsed are few and far between. And this doesn't make those parents send their kids.

exLtEveDallas Fri 10-Jun-16 06:23:10

Sadly in my experience there are dozens of parents that don't give a stuff about sending their child to school. I was at a school yesterday that had 30 children off - and not just yesterday, they'd been off all week.

The school doesn't fine (or rather the LA doesn't) because 'it's not worth it'. It's an excellent school, the teaching is above average by all accounts, but it's OFSTED is poor because of attendance. There is one class where they haven't reached 70% (weekly) since September.

The LA is finally listening to the school. But it's probably going to be too little too late. There is a 'culture' of absence that isn't going to be changed unless the LA gets more harsh - and I mean allowing the school to de-register the child, not just fining.

branofthemist Fri 10-Jun-16 06:30:22

My kids have attended four schools between them and attendance was displayed in the halls. Always above 90% overall. So I should have said 'in my experience', I am sure in some places it is more common.

msrisotto Fri 10-Jun-16 06:45:44

Term time holidays is not negatively impacting children's education, so fines might be a money spinner, but that is the only thing they are effective at doing. Kids who regularly truant are more of a problem but fines won't help them a jot, nor their parents.

My parents took me on holiday in term time and it didn't hinder me getting my bachelors degree, masters or doctorate, so what is the real aim here?

I also agree with pp: Life isn't all about education, important though that is. Life is important too, and sometimes there's just more to life than school.

exLtEveDallas Fri 10-Jun-16 06:52:16

Kids who regularly truant are more of a problem but fines won't help them a jot, nor their parents

Agreed. But you can't 'punish' one without the other. If it has to be fines, then I'd fine per absence - can you imagine the uproar: "Your child had 32 days absent out of 190 in the last school year. To guarantee their place in September a fine of £320 is to be paid to the school by 31 July. If this fine is not paid they will be deregistered from school and parents will need to make other arrangements" grin (not entirely serious)

noeuf Fri 10-Jun-16 07:03:31

Absolutely shocking tbh. DFE have instructed the LA to appeal, are covering the costs and acting as a party once/if permission is granted to appeal.
They clearly want to establish case law supporting them.

Marmaladeday Fri 10-Jun-16 07:22:05

' I mean allowing the school to de-register the child, not just fining.'

Wait, what happens to the children then ? In my daughters school the ones with persistent absence are the ones who desperately need to be away from their families and learning in school. Why should they be punished because of terrible parents?
Apologies if I have misunderstood ?

exLtEveDallas Fri 10-Jun-16 07:33:07

I'm talking about the children who don't attend for months at a time. The LA doesn't allow schools to deregister them, so their absence counts towards the schools overall attendance. Which means the school goes well below average and OFSTED marks them as unsatisfactory. That's not fair on the school or the teachers who are working their arses off for all the other children.

VikingVolva Fri 10-Jun-16 07:35:55

"In my daughters school the ones with persistent absence are the ones who desperately need to be away from their families and learning in school. Why should they be punished because of terrible parents?"

Unless this gets properly sorted out at appeal, then the current ruling means they miss out. As do the those with certain medical conditions. Because their attendance would never be good enough to qualify for a termtime holiday.

I don't like prizes for good attendance. And I like it even less when the "prize" is a holiday.

PurpleCrazyHorse Fri 10-Jun-16 07:39:02

The trouble is the fine structure is trying to cover two very different situations.

Parents who support their child in school but take an occasional week's holiday in term time, or day off for an event. Child attends regularly the rest of the time. I don't think this situation affects outcome much. We've taken DD out of school for the odd day occasionally, ensured she does her homework, spellings and reading practise.

But also, and where I think fines were meant to help (but probably haven't), which is persistent lateness and random absence where parents don't seem to care. I know of parents in our school who have said to me that they couldn't be bothered to take their child to school. Awful for the kids and it's a general undervaluing of education which is the problem there.

No easy fix and I can't praise our school highly enough for supporting those children. Hopefully changing the aspirations of a generation.

BitOutOfPractice Fri 10-Jun-16 07:39:05

The law should be aimed at total piss-takers, not your average conscientious family.

This. Totally

This law is just too black and white. A very big sledgehammer to bravo a nut. A blunt instrument. The LA's should be given the resources to target the persistent offenders that PPs have described. Not the family that takes their child out in the last Friday of term to get a cheaper ferry fare or whatever.

FlouncyMcFlounceFace Fri 10-Jun-16 07:42:56

I don't agree with fines for absence or that it particularly works. At the latest school my DC are at (primary school no.5 in my parenting experience) absence rates are appalling. Lateness is awful, contributions to trips a nightmare, snack money not paid by majority, collections/ pickups slack.

There are, in this area, a large number of fairly despondent parents who collectively operate towards the edge of acceptable parenting, flouting rules. Social care thresholds are really really high here due to demand. Lots of families do have some sort of intervention but they know not a lot will happen.

We have a growing social situation that will ripple down through the generations if we don't attempt to tackle it. Whilst fines are not hugely successful and not appropriate for many, stopping fines with no sanctions concerns me that the very act of stopping the system will almost promote an acceptability of term time absence and for some children that really will effect that wonderful gift we give our countrys children of a full and free education.

I think sometimes we forget to pause and celebrate the opportunities and freedoms we have, we lack respect for the good in the country we live. I don't know how we balance promotion of acceptance of the good of the country without stifling the wonderful freedom of speech and striving for further improvement.

meditrina Fri 10-Jun-16 08:00:36

"This law is just too black and white."

That's the complete opposite of the usual complaint, which is that it is too grey and unclear.

It's entirely down to the headteacher's discretion, as far as the law is concerned.

The LEA has no role in authorising leave.

If you have a good HT, then the individual circumstances can (and are) considered and holidays can be authorised.

I don't think setting a new policy, which would mean families who are lucky enough that all their children have been healthy that year can have a holiday but those whose attendance is lower would still get fined, is remotely acceptable and would hope it is immediately challenged under DDA.

If you want things like overall attendance, health circumstances and other individual circumstances to be taken into account by a nominated member of staff in the specific school who if authorised by law to use their common sense, the you get the law as it actually is at the moment.

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 10-Jun-16 08:04:46

The law does not take into account parents who can't take time off in school holidays. While armed forces get authorised holidays, well they do in my area, we are also a predominantly agricultural and tourism area, wages are well below the national average so as well as the affordability of taking children on holiday in holiday times in real terms they are traditionally the busiest times of the year work wise. Other companies have set holiday times as well.

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jun-16 08:12:15

Fines are only issued once the absence falls below 90%

It varies from LA to LA. The LA must have a Code of Conduct setting out when it is appropriate to issue a penalty notice. Most (possibly all) require multiple absences before a fine can be levied but the number of absences varies. Ten sessions (i.e. ten half days) is a minimum used by many LAs but it is not universal.

Term time holidays is not negatively impacting children's education

That statement is contrary to the evidence. Studies have shown a clear link between absences and outcomes.

I don't agree with fines for absence or that it particularly works

The absence statistics show that it does work. The overall level of absence and the level of persistent absence are both down since fines were introduced in 2003 and have reduced further since the regulations were tightened up in 2013.

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jun-16 08:14:37

The law does not take into account parents who can't take time off in school holidays

Yes it does. Schools can authorise absence in special circumstances. If someone is genuinely unable to go on holiday during the school holidays (as opposed to wanting a term time holiday because it is cheaper) that is the kind of situation in which the holiday should be authorised.

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 10-Jun-16 08:19:51

Sadly they gave never authorised ours, never been fined though so that's the plus point.

prh47bridge Fri 10-Jun-16 08:21:16

Not the family that takes their child out in the last Friday of term to get a cheaper ferry fare or whatever

In most (possibly all) LAs the family would not get a fine for that. A single day's unauthorised absence is generally insufficient to trigger a fine unless the absence coincides with an exam or similar.

And, as Meditrina says, the law is not black and white. Whatever your head tells you the truth is that they have discretion. They can decide whether or not to authorise absence. Many choose to propagate the myth that they don't have discretion as it allows them to refuse holidays, blame the government and sympathise with parents - much easier than admitting that they have chosen not to authorise the holiday and dealing with angry parents.

Numberoneisgone Fri 10-Jun-16 08:29:29

I do not live in the UK so different rules apply. We were taken out of school a number of times during term time for holidays over the years. All of my siblings and I have university post graduate degrees.

I just think it is insane the reach of this legislation into what should be quality family life. I now have siblings living in the UK, married to UK citizens, we too are affected by this reach. Family gatherings here in their home country are affected and the absence of our nieces and nephews, who by the way it is obvious at this stage will also have no educational problems participating in higher level education, is just crazy. It is just not always possible for the entire family to work to UK holidays when they do not coincide with holiday time here.

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