School days lost to term-time holidays rose by 2,500 last autumn in Suffolk
PUBLISHED: 18:00 19 May 2017
The number of school days lost to unapproved holidays in Suffolk last autumn rose by almost 2,500 year-on-year, new figures show.
Parents were last night given fresh warnings against taking children out of school for cheaper holidays due to concerns over the effect they have on exam results and the court action families might face in the wake of last month’s Supreme Court ruling.
Jon Platt lost a landmark legal battle over a £60 fine for taking his seven-year-old daughter out of school to Disney World for a week.
The ruling gave legal backing to the government’s stance. It meant parents can be fined for removing children from school without permission, and prosecuted and even jailed if they refuse to pay.
But the latest Department for Education research, for the Autumn 2016/17 term, found the total number of school days lost for both authorised and unauthorised term-time holidays had risen to 19,645, up from 17,015 the year before. Authorised holidays remained static, but unauthorised trips rose by over 20%, from 11,785 to 14,295.
Heads insist on imposing former education secretary Michael Gove’s toughened-up policy from 2013 of only permitting term-time holidays in exceptional circumstances.
Dr Simon Letman, headteacher at Holbrook Academy, admitted it “makes good business sense” to take advantage of cheaper term-time trips, but warned missing just one day harms GCSE results.
He said: “We are clear: this is unacceptable. We have sympathy in exceptional circumstances, but we all have a responsibility.”
Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, now the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If different pupils are taken out at different times, this disruptive effect increases exponentially.”
Graham White, the Suffolk NUT national representative, said the majority of students suffer from missing just one day of school.
Around 70% of requests are made by parents of primary school pupils. The data also suggests 73% of all requests are now rejected, up from 47% in 2010.
Term-time holidays account for 8% of all absences in Suffolk.
Suffolk County Council said: “Children should be in the classroom, and not taken out of school without good reason.”