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Term time absences change attacked

Campaigners have accused the Government of "interfering" over a crack down on parents taking children out of school during term time.

Members of the group Parents Want a Say said they would seek a judicial review challenging a decision by the Department for Education to remove the discretion of headteachers in England to approve term time absences in "special" c ircumstances.

Natalie Bamford, of Parents Want A Say, told ITV's Good Morning Britain (GMB): "We just feel that they don't trust us and our decisions to take our children out of school when the need arises and we feel that they are interfering too much."

"We are not sacrificing anything, if anything, we are adding to our children's education. I feel that travel is an added bonus to their education, I don't feel that I am taking away from their education at all," she added.

Under the new rules which came into force in September, headteachers can only approve absences in term time for "exceptional" circumstances.

Parents who do not have permission to take a child out of school during term time face a fine of £60.

If they do not pay, parents could be prosecuted with a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence of up to three months. A court can also impose a Parenting Order.

Parents Want a Say has claimed that the new rules will mean families are unable to afford overseas trips during peak holiday season. The group has added that workers in key professions, including people in the NHS and the police, face restrictions on when they can take leave.

But Kate Ivens, of the Campaign for Real Education, defended the new rules.

She recommended parents take cheaper holidays if they feel they cannot afford an overseas holiday during the school holidays.

"When I was a child we holidayed in the British Isles, it is a great place to have a holiday actually. Why do you have to go abroad to give you children a highly educational holiday? It really doesn't add up," she told GMB.

"What is most important is that your children must get their education."

She added: "If parents take children out of school, other than for an extremely important reason like granny is dying somewhere, or it is a religious holiday or something, they are compromising children's education. I think you have to keep your end of the bargain."

A DfE spokesman said: " We recognise the challenges facing parents to fit holidays around their jobs and that's why we are giving all schools the flexibility to set their own term times so they can change term dates to ones that work for their pupils and families.

"Many schools are already taking advantage of this, like the David Young Academy in Leeds, which runs a seven-term year.

"Evidence shows allowing pupils to regularly miss school can be hugely detrimental to a child's education.

"The most recent full-year figures show we are making progress, with 130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school under this government. We have also increased fines for truancy and encouraged schools to address the problem earlier."


From Belfast Telegraph