Level of unapproved term-time absence rises at Essex schools

PUBLISHED: 12:22 16 May 2017

Missing lessons can waste teachers' time and set back pupils, headteachers say. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Missing lessons can waste teachers' time and set back pupils, headteachers say. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

The number of school days lost in Essex to unapproved term-time family holidays has risen by almost 56,000 in five years, new figures show.

Caroline Derbyshire. Picture: SAFFRON WALDEN COUNTY HIGH SCHOOLCaroline Derbyshire. Picture: SAFFRON WALDEN COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL

Unauthorised family holidays accounted for 87,024 days of absences in the 2015/16 academic year in Essex – up from 31,126 in 2010/11.

The news comes as debate over the controversial issue continues to hit headlines.

In the same period, headteachers have approved far fewer term-time holidays in Essex – down from 81,486 to 25,371.

This has actually led to a slight fall in the number of school days lost for all holidays – both authorised and unapproved.

Last night, heads said they would continue imposing former education secretary Michael Gove’s toughened-up policy of only permitting term-time holidays in exceptional circumstances.

He tightened the rules in 2013 to improve attendance and attainment rates. Previously, heads could grant up to 10 days leave a year for family holidays in special circumstances.

In Essex, the number of days lost for all unauthorised and authorised term-time holidays fell from 112,612 in 2010/11 to 112,394 in 2015/16.

The new Department for Education (DfE) figures come after Isle of Wight father 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 Supreme Court’s ruling gave legal backing to the government’s stance.

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “Parents have a legal duty to ensure regular school attendance for their children who are registered at a school.

“There are clear links between attendance and attainment, and every lesson really does count.

“The Government has made it very clear that headteachers should not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances and expect local authorities to use their statutory powers to protect the education of children.

“We will continue to take the action needed to protect the education of the county’s pupils.”

Caroline Derbyshire, head at Saffron Walden County High School, said: “Missing lessons that have been planned, prepared and delivered for a child’s benefit is a waste of public money.”

She added: “There may be exceptional cases where term time absence is unavoidable, and these exceptional requests are judged on a case-by-case basis.”

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