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Term-time holiday father wins in High Court

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Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

"Required attendance"? THAT sounds like punishment!


it's a legal requirement, whatever words you use.
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jedster wrote:
Quote:

The impact on the rest of the class was similar whether it was a 'high achieving' child with good attendance, or a low achiever. Either way, they took additional effort before/after the holiday that could otherwise be devoted to the whole class. This was at a "good" (in the real, not OFSTED sense!) local grammar.


Garbage.
My parents took me out of school for holidays a couple of times and I also went on term time school trips a couple of times (when only a small minority were on the trip). In none of those occasions did the teachers do anything different to help me catch up. It was my responsibility - borrow someone else's books /notes and see what I had missed. But at I had good attendance and was achieving at the top of the year so may have been more self-sufficient.

Exactly!

IF teachers are expected to help a kid to catch up after any absence, being it from illness or holidays, then ALL absence should be viewed together. Say, jonny has been unlucky and were sick a lot, and as a result is in danger of falling behind. Well, no term-time holidays then. But if Mary hasn't been sick all term and is maintaining an excellent grade, the rational for deny her the holiday would be what, so the teacher can spend more time on OTHER students?

For the middling students, teachers should feel comfortable to advice their parents that there's no extra help from the teacher when they get back. They're risking the child's falling behind unless they make their own arrangement to help the kid out while away.
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Whilst I don't think there should be an automatic right for term time absences, the current rules seem divisive.

My daughter's school is taking a group of kids out of school for seven school days on an activity holiday - which I'm very glad she is going on and I'm sure she will enjoy! The group going comprises kids from all of the different forms in the year, so there will not be a single class that isn't 'disrupted' during these seven days (I don't know if there are other trips going on for other years).

My daughters school also has 'duty pupils' each day, where two children spend the day out of class acting as 'runners' for the office etc delivering messages and fetching children from classrooms if required etc.

My daughters school took her out of 'standard classes' for a day to attend the district sports day - on this occasion she, and all the other children from her school, missed the timetabled end of year exams which she had to catch up on the following week (which she did, and it wasn't a big deal).

I can't say I mind any of the above. I think that, generally, the school offers her a great deal and this obviously works for the school.

However, after the precedents set above buy the school, having zero flexibility for parents to legitimately take a child out for even a couple of days is hypocritical and has lead to bad feeling (or lying).

A local school used to have the rather sensible policy whereby if your child had had an attendance of over 97% (or thereabouts) in the prior year, you were able to apply for term time leave (although it was not guaranteed to be granted). It seems a shame that there is no longer this type of latitude. Personally, I think the 93% attendance in this court case is low.

My husbands work hours are project dependant; there can be times when he works 14 hours a day and at weekends. Some years we didn't go skiing due to his work commitments / cover not tallying with school holidays. In hindsight, I wish we had just taken the kids out of (primary) school for a week.

A holiday may not be a 'necessity', but I think that the benefit of a family all spending time together doing something they all have an interest in (hopefully not just drinking with nu-dad) is being underestimated.
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Quote:

got to agree, lots of parents at independent schools give a lot up including ski holidays to pay for their child's fees, don't go thinking they all have the cash to pay full rate during holiday periods.


I broadly agree with your point but do note that shorter school terms in private sector do provide options to avoid the peak weeks when the state schools are off.
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jedster wrote:
Quote:

The impact on the rest of the class was similar whether it was a 'high achieving' child with good attendance, or a low achiever. Either way, they took additional effort before/after the holiday that could otherwise be devoted to the whole class. This was at a "good" (in the real, not OFSTED sense!) local grammar.


Garbage.
My parents took me out of school for holidays a couple of times and I also went on term time school trips a couple of times (when only a small minority were on the trip). In none of those occasions did the teachers do anything different to help me catch up. It was my responsibility - borrow someone else's books /notes and see what I had missed. But at I had good attendance and was achieving at the top of the year so may have been more self-sufficient.
Similarly, I saw little evidence of teachers allowing themselves to be inconvenienced by a student's unenforced absence.
When I got stiffed short-notice on a ticket to Wengen by somebody, I figured I'd take The Boy out of school rather than waste it.
He dutifully did the rounds of his teachers asking what was planned for the following week so he could do his best not to fall behind.
His art teacher told him to bring back a picture of mountains and his maths teacher, emailed him the name of the chapter of next topic they were due to begin. That was the total sum of the 'extra work' the faculty put into his absence: none of the others did anything at all.
As it was, The Boy returned to school so far ahead of his maths class that the teacher suggested he lead the class for a lesson - which he proudly did.
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They key issue here, it seems to me, is whether (within the current school system and legislation on truancy) it is right to treat an absence for a holiday differently from other unauthorised absence (e.g. when mother CBA to get up and get the kids to school).

The way some LEAs have been issuing fines suggests they thing this is right. The High Court disagreed. So something will need to change.
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Quote:

I broadly agree with your point but do note that shorter school terms in private sector do provide options to avoid the peak weeks when the state schools are off

but only if all of your children are educated in the private sector.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Boris wrote:
Quote:

accept the state's free education


Free at point of delivery


& without getting into a discussion on taxation/ non-hypothecation your point is?


That it's not free, it's paid for out of taxation, therefore as taxpayers maybe we have a view on what the T&Cs should be
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Response from LGA on ruling which makes interesting reading

"Children's education is treated with the upmost seriousness, but it is clear that the current system does not always favour families, especially those that are struggling to meet the demands of modern life or have unconventional work commitments.

"There has to be a sensible solution whereby every family has the option to spend time together when they choose to, rather than tying families to set holiday periods. This makes no allowances for what a family would class as a special occasion or takes into account a parent's work life.

"Families where parents work unsocial shift patterns, in the emergency services or whose jobs are tied to calendar commitments, can find that they are unable to take family holidays during school holiday periods.

"It shouldn't be that a tragedy has to befall a family for a child to get leave during term-time. There are many more joyous and positive occasions in life when consideration should be given to granting leave requests, such as a wedding or perhaps a sporting event involving a family member. These can have social and emotional benefits which are of lasting value and support to young people. And there are just times when a family should be able to come together to celebrate without worrying about prosecution or being fined.

"Blanket bans do not work and as today's High Court ruling shows, it's a system that is not always enforceable. We want to work with the Government to find a sensible solution whereby every family has the option to spend time together.

"While councils fully support the Department for Education's stance on every child being in school every day, there are occasions when parental requests should be given individual consideration and a common sense approach applied."

- See more at: http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10180/7824237/NEWS#sthash.g8FeKzsY.dpuf
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Whatever the merits of taking children out of school for holidays, as the father explained the case on BBC Breakfast before the High court held the case, I thought that he was clearly right legally, and that the Council did not have a case. Most parents would not have felt able to take on a High Court defence given the potentially staggering costs involved. Maybe councillors should be jointly and severally liable for the costs in such cases should prosecutions their Councils bring fail.
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achilles wrote:
Maybe councillors should be jointly and severally liable for the costs in such cases should prosecutions their Councils bring fail.


Maybe you'd like councillors to be restricted to the fabulously wealthy and those with nothing worth losing.
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@Homey, The key difference in what you describe vs parents taking children out at will is that the school will have planned the various 'activities' into the delivery of the curriculum to ensure that lesson planning accounts for the time children are out of class.
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RichClark wrote:
@Homey, The key difference in what you describe vs parents taking children out at will is that the school will have planned the various 'activities' into the delivery of the curriculum to ensure that lesson planning accounts for the time children are out of class.


I agree that is likely to a certain extent with the activity holiday - although I have no idea how you would plan an activity holiday to ensure no one misses out on the curriculum when one third of the class is canoeing or rock climbing etc for seven (school) days and the other two-thirds are back in the classroom.
Every day at least two students are out of all of their classes being the 'duty pupil', the school doesn't seem to think this is an insurmountable problem for either the kids or staff - I assume that they feel all involved can easily overcome this slight disruption.

I posted a few examples of 'time out', there are many more e.g. taking a few who raised the most money on a sponsored event to a 'theme park / attraction' during a school day, not to mention all the sporting matches and music lessons that require pupils to miss lesson time every day.

Kids have always missed some lessons to take part in 'beneficial' activities. I just think the governments heavy handed approach was ill advised and put both parents and schools in a difficult position.

I will be interested to see how the government proceed now. Most parents just wanted a little, occasional, flexibility on the last couple of days of term - ultimately this legislation could completely backfire with some parents now thinking that they have the absolute right to bog-off on holiday for 10 school days each school year (or whatever the % may work out to be).
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You know it makes sense.
Homey wrote:
ultimately this legislation could completely backfire with some parents now thinking that they have the absolute right to bog-off on holiday for 10 school days each school year (or whatever the % may work out to be).
Do you think so?

Quote:
Bookings for family holidays during school term dates have risen 88% since last week's High Court victory, according to an online travel agency.
Quote:
Over the weekend, bookings and searches for holidays during the school summer break fell by 32% and 45% respectively.
http://www.travelmole.com//news_feature.php?c=setreg&region=2&m_id=s~dmnT_T_&w_id=31957&news_id=2022138
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dogwatch wrote:
achilles wrote:
Maybe councillors should be jointly and severally liable for the costs in such cases should prosecutions their Councils bring fail.


Maybe you'd like councillors to be restricted to the fabulously wealthy and those with nothing worth losing.


I would like to see councillors who try to bully their citizens with High Court action, when it seems obvious there is no legal case, to face some sanction.
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achilles wrote:
I would like to see councillors who try to bully their citizens with High Court action, when it seems obvious there is no legal case, to face some sanction.
I have sympathy for the council (and councillors). As is clear from statements from the Local Government Association they do not support the law as it currently stands, yet they have a statutory duty to uphold it (despite ever diminishing resources for actually managing their responsibilities). Perhaps it would be better if it was the Secretary of State who had responsibility for prosecuting parents - shortening the chain of responsibility between policy and enactment...?
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rob@rar wrote:
achilles wrote:
I would like to see councillors who try to bully their citizens with High Court action, when it seems obvious there is no legal case, to face some sanction.
I have sympathy for the council (and councillors). As is clear from statements from the Local Government Association they do not support the law as it currently stands, yet they have a statutory duty to uphold it (despite ever diminishing resources for actually managing their responsibilities). Perhaps it would be better if it was the Secretary of State who had responsibility for prosecuting parents - shortening the chain of responsibility between policy and enactment...?


The councils must enforce the law - except that in this case - as pointed out by both the magistrates and the High Court, they were trying to enforce law that - um - wasn't law. To be fair, it would seem that HMG was similarly deluded.
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I suspect a key cause of this mess was the usual complete disregard for consultation with people who were familiar with efforts to enforce the law on school attendance. This was just one in a series of high-handed government policies imposed without adequate consultation, driven by dogma rather than evidence. It does look as though LEAs might have had more success opposing the dogmatic push to make all schools into academies despite the evidence of many problems with existing academies.
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achilles wrote:
dogwatch wrote:
achilles wrote:
Maybe councillors should be jointly and severally liable for the costs in such cases should prosecutions their Councils bring fail.


Maybe you'd like councillors to be restricted to the fabulously wealthy and those with nothing worth losing.


I would like to see councillors who try to bully their citizens with High Court action, when it seems obvious there is no legal case.


If it were "obvious" it would not have gone to appeal. Characterising upholding government policy as "bullying" is also a bit of a stretch.
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achilles wrote:
The councils must enforce the law - except that in this case - as pointed out by both the magistrates and the High Court, they were trying to enforce law that - um - wasn't law. To be fair, it would seem that HMG was similarly deluded.
Doing it now, in the light of the High Court judgement might well be described as bullying. Up until the High Court judgement the council(lors) would have believed that, as the Secretary of State had made clear, they were simply enforcing a law (which they might well not have supported 100%, but nevertheless it's not for them to pick and choose which of their statutory duties they fulfil).

As pam w said, Gove and now Morgan are the most controlling, centralising Secretaries of State for Education for a couple of decades. So much political rhetoric about "LEA controlled schools", yet nobody talks about Whitehall-controlled schools, of which this court case is just one more example. That's why I think that prosecuting parents should be done by the Secretary of State as it reflects better the reality of who is calling the shots for day to day education matters.
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The Council is appealing the High Court decision

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36491515
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I have to say I am REALLY upset at the fact that the DfE are funding the appeal. Do we as parents / tax payers have any say in that surely that money should be going towards our schools?
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NickyJ wrote:
Do we as parents / tax payers have any say in that surely that money should be going towards our schools?


You get to vote every 5 years. Though I think this is a case of whoever you vote for, the government gets in.
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Quote:

surely that money should be going towards our schools?

The Secretary of State would no doubt argue that money spent on ensuring children attend school regularly is well spent. Others might not agree, but it is not an unreasonable argument.

The outcome might be that the present rules are found to be a beggar's muddle. Which, of course, they are. Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure their child attends school regularly but the father in the Isle of White case had done just that.

At present they are treating parents who take kids out of school for a holiday quite differently from parents whose kids are regularly missing significant amounts of school - and that is inherently unreasonable.The government initially said, when the High Court ruled against the Council, that they were going to "change the legislation" but that is easier said than done.

It irritates me that they keep citing the correlation between good school attendance and good performance at GCSEs as though that indicated that the former caused the latter. More education for Ministers in basic statistics, perhaps? Any teacher knows kids who regularly miss lots of school - from families with multiple problems, very often.
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@pam w, I guess I am partly more sensitive as the issues with youngest are now looking like she is on the autism spectrum, she id being referred but I met with the head of where we hope she can go into in yr 3 and hearing their issues of funding to support those special needs children and the choices they are having to make, coupled with how overloaded the service she is being referred to is and the timescales they have experienced from pupils they have experienced I find exceedingly saddening... Then read that which is spending what will be huge amounts of money on legal fees, I feel that there is something very broken here. Sad
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@NickyJ, services for children with special needs are certainly very poorly funded but so is much else. My daughter, a secondary teacher, regularly buys things (including pens) from her own purse, because there is simply no money for them in school. There are lots of teachers resigning this term and few are being replaced - meaning the workload and pressure on the rest is bound to increase.

The whole system is in a poor state, in my view. And when it comes to truancy, one girl in my daughter's GCSE group hasn't been to a lesson since October. Council's have had to cut the welfare officers who followed up truancy. The whole thing is a bit of a mess. The cost of this legal appeal will be peanuts in comparison, and could just lead to a useful tidying up.

I do hope something suitable sorts itself out for your daughter - it's sad, but not surprising, to hear how stretched the resources are.
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Coming in a bit late to this thread. I have three kids at school in Australia and taking kids out of school for a bit of a trip round is never an issue. Obviously you don't do it just before exams. Many parents try to do a big trip with the kids especially when they are in primary school. It's the done thing. My daughter's friend took a year out with her family and travelled around Aus in a camper van. She took her year 10 study by distance learning.

I'm taking my 15 year old son skiing in France for 2 weeks next year and this is in school term time. No dramas with the school. I think the English education departments need to focus on the parents of kids not going to school, not on parents of kids who have a 100% attendance record and take a week or two out to broaden their experiences.

And I can't see how sending your kids on a school ski trip with a teacher is any different to a parent taking them on a similar ski trip. Bit weird to me.

I think there's a reason the job of Education Civil Servant isn't on the Australian immigration 'Skills Occupation List', I don't think they would be very welcome Smile
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Quote:

And I can't see how sending your kids on a school ski trip with a teacher is any different to a parent taking them on a similar ski trip. Bit weird to me.

I do think it's different. Primary school children now often do a week away at the end of year 6. It teaches them a lot - they have to manage their stuff (no relying on Mum to find socks and knickers, or to remind you not to wear ALL your clothes on day 1), they have to get along with classmates, not just their friends, they generally have to grow up a bit.

Same thing, to a lesser degree, with day trips.

Children in the UK are amazingly molly-coddled. Might be better in Oz, but until that year 6 trip some children have never even been allowed to go shopping alone, or walk anywhere alone, catch a bus, etc etc etc.
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Quote:

It irritates me that they keep citing the correlation between good school attendance and good performance at GCSEs as though that indicated that the former caused the latter

Why should that irritate you? Any Board of Governors can verify that there is strong correlation between low attendance and low achievement. Granted that low achievement maybe caused by a whole bunch of factors that also negatively impact that child's learning, but nonetheless just improving that attendance WILL improve that child's educational outcomes.
Where the legislation DID work was to encourage the rank and file majority to attend school more frequently, and give the School attendance offices some teeth.
The legislation fails when it is applied rigorously by some jobsworth who meets and educated caring father who is prepared to defend his right to relax with his kids after he's made them work hard at an education.
The legislation isn't right: but its had a beneficial effect on a lot of chav-spawn, and a lot of teachers found their work has been easier for it. IMHO a good idea, but only if applied sensibly.
For clarity, we did take our kids out of school for holidays when they were younger, but wouldn't consider anything other than occasional days in high school.
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oz wrote:
I think the English education departments need to focus .......


Thanks for the advice. In the spirit of reciprocity, are there any matters concerning government in Australia on which you'd like advice from a random selection of Brits?
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Quote:

Why should that irritate you? Any Board of Governors can verify that there is strong correlation between low attendance and low achievement.

I don't doubt the correlation. But correlation does not mean causation.
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Strax wrote:
[Why should that irritate you? Any Board of Governors can verify that there is strong correlation between low attendance and low achievement.


Just as there is plenty of evidence of children who do take a week off to go skiing, visit world heritage sites etc etc still attaining the highest grades.

It should be about ensuring kids do not play truant and that parents who do not help reduce, and worse by their actions or lack of, support their child's truancy are brought to answer.
Parents wanting to take their kids away in term time for whatever reason who work with the school, who encourage their children to work hard and do their best are not and never have been the issue yet this act targets and criminalises them.
The message being sent by the Gov and legal system is not just wrong but totally idiotic and counter productive.
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Quote:

The message being sent by the Gov and legal system

well, to give the legal system its due, the High Court has found that the father who was prosecuted WAS sending his child to school regularly (as previously defined in a range of regulations and case law).
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NickyJ wrote:
I have to say I am REALLY upset at the fact that the DfE are funding the appeal. Do we as parents / tax payers have any say in that surely that money should be going towards our schools?


The problem is that the High Court decision challenges government policy. I had thought the HC decision reasonably reflected the law, However, it would seem that the the DfE brief feels that there is a reasonable chance of a successful appeal to the Supreme Court, which can establish definitively what the law is. If the decision supports the DfE, then the latter does not have to spend money redrafting the law, and bidding for government time in the House of Commons. On that basis, the Supreme Court appeal is probably reasonable value for money. Under the circumstances, it would also seem reasonable to fund the defendants costs - bet that doesn't happen, though.
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@oz,
Quote:

I think the English education departments need to focus on the parents of kids not going to school, not on parents of kids who have a 100% attendance record and take a week or two out to broaden their experiences.
At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, you clearly can't have a 100% attendance record and take two weeks off to go skiing. Tell you what, why don't we agree that you can take as many weeks off during term-time as you like as long as you maintain 100% attendance?


@achilles,
Quote:

Under the circumstances, it would also seem reasonable to fund the defendants costs - bet that doesn't happen, though.
I think the current situation where the loser generally pays the fees is fair.
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Quote:

you clearly can't have a 100% attendance record and take two weeks off to go skiing

of course, and the HC made no such daft suggestion. Their decision was based on the fact that over many years there has been an established level of unauthorised absence which can trigger proceedings against parents and the latest "rules" have overturned that, treating 5 days absence for a holiday very differently from 5 days absence because your parents can't be arsed to get out of bed, or because a kid spent the time playing in a games arcade rather than go to school.

That does seem to fly in the face of the basic principle of "equality before the law".

As does the fact that LEAs were left to establish their own rules of procedure on this and, unsurprisingly, they vary a fair bit. The Isle of Wight seems to be on the draconian end - others have explicitly "allowed" at least as much unauthorised absence as was the case here. So there are two potential sources of injustice in this business.
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@speed098,
IMHO this:
Quote:

ensuring kids do not play truant and that parents who do not help reduce, and worse by their actions or lack of, support their child's truancy are brought to answer


was the point of the legislation. But without having to involve Social Services/Attendance Officer/Headteacher in the process. If the legislation served to dissuade even 30% of chavs from stealing a discount week in Ibiza at the expense of their kids education, it was probably worthwhile. Its just a shame the message didn't reach the Isle of White.
Oh, and who taught you how to construct sentences? A contortionist?
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A year on...and the decision goes the other way at Supreme Court.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39504338

Apparently, judges ruled that interpretation of what 'regular attendance' means, a principle at the heart of this case, should be decided by each school. Inconsistency and confusion likely to follow?
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