Tough action on term-time holidays

TOUGHER sanctions to stop parents taking their children on term-time holidays are planned by Sheffield education chiefs as part of a revamped strategy to tackle truancy.

Wednesday, 26th September 2007, 12:08 pm
Updated Wednesday, 26th September 2007, 12:39 pm

A trend to take time off to take advantage of off-peak holiday fares shows no sign of being reversed, according to a report prepared for councillors.

But what Sheffield schools lack is a common city-wide approach to the issue - at the moment headteachers have the final say in whether to allow pupils to have time off.

They can decide whether families can take their children out of school because of "special" or "exceptional" circumstances.

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Education officers want those powers shifted away from individual heads or governing bodies, with the emphasis instead on city and national policies.

Parents taking their children out of school too often could be issued with penalty notices in cases where a court prosecution might be considered to be too heavy handed.

The policy changes are part of an updated campaign to tackle truancy called Making A Fresh Mark, building on a campaign first launched nearly six years ago.

Nine secondary schools have more recently been targeted by the Government for their poor attendance records, and six of those have since improved.

Attendance levels overall at secondaries have been improving gradually over the last five academic years - but more than eight per cent of school days are still lost each year.

At primary schools the picture is better, with less than six per cent of school days lost last year - but that was still slightly down on attendance levels in the peak year of 2004.

The redrawn strategy recognises that tackling truancy is a complex issue - and that the quality of teaching and an inventive curriculum are the major factors.

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Schools also need to realise that no matter how successful they may be, absenteeism will still exist to some degree.

Education chiefs say it is clear there is a difference between parents who don't care whether their children are in school, and those who want their youngsters to be in class but find it hard to get them there.

Such differences need to be acknowledged when welfare officers deal with individual cases, their report says.

The planned changes to the authority's approach to truancy will go out for consultation with schools later this term.

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