Revealed: Top 10 Suffolk schools with most term-time holidays, as more parents seek cheap breaks
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Thousands more days of school absences are being lost to unauthorised family holidays in Suffolk and Essex.
One headteacher warned the issue of pupils being taken out of class for cheap family holidays despite official rejections is getting worse.
New figures show an annual 29% rise in the number of days of unauthorised absences due to term-time holidays in Suffolk. It rose from 16,931 to 21,791 between the autumn and spring terms of 2015/16 and 2016/17, an analysis of government data showed. There was a slight rise in authorised breaks, but 72% of all term-time holiday requests are now rejected, compared to 50% five years ago.
“We are seeing an awful lot more requests which we simply can’t authorise,” Dr Simon Letman, headteacher of Holbrook Academy, said. “Children are being taken out for cheaper flights. We always tell parents this impacts outcomes. One child lost 15 days and did not perform well. The parents had to swallow that. Cash savings are outweighing GCSE impacts, which is disappointing. It is an impossible situation. It is going to get worse.”
He said he has sympathy for parents who, due to work, cannot have time off when schools break up, but said he is responsible for all students and attendance rates.
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The data covers the period after a father won a high-profile High Court case in May 2016 over taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission. It is suggested that many parents took term-time breaks after this ruling, believing they would not face action. Education chiefs won the Supreme Court case in April 2017.
In Essex, there was a 39% rise in unapproved days of term-time holidays, from 38,322 to 53,167. Some 81% of requests are now rejected. It was 31% five years ago.
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Justine Roberts, founder of parenting website Mumsnet, said: “Parents are being denied permission even for very short trips with genuine educational value, for off-season holidays for children with special needs, or for really significant family events.”
Graham White, of the Suffolk NUT, said: “For terminal illnesses or once in a lifetime opportunities, heads need to exercise discretion.”
Parents can be fined £60 for unauthorised absences. It is £120 if unpaid after 21 days. Those that fail to pay can face prosecution.
Gordon Jones, education cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, reiterated the authority’s stance against term-time holidays.