I do appreciate that parents can find it difficult to have holidays with their children during school holidays, and also that the cost of going away can be higher at this time. I also recognise that many people in our area are seasonal workers, which can affect when they can take their family away.
However, absences can be very disruptive for both children and schools. I am glad the Government has empowered headteachers to make decisions about when pupils can be absent from school, and made clear it should only happen in exceptional circumstances. There are, of course, times when being away from school is unavoidable, such as a family emergency, and I do think that allowances should be made for situations like this.
It has been shown that children with the lowest absence rates are more than four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths than those with the highest absence rates. If a child is absent for a couple of weeks they can miss out on key learning in subjects such as English and maths, especially at primary school.
I think we all acknowledge that family holidays can be enriching experiences and the Government has no desire to prevent parents from taking their children on holiday. The school year is set locally, and schools can design it to give families various opportunities to enjoy holidays without having to disrupt children’s education, which of course must come first. I have discussed how schools use the discretion they are allowed with head teachers and I know they seek to balance a range of interests.
In this difficult matter, I am confident that the law strikes the right, difficult balance between the needs of individual families to take children out of school in exceptional circumstances and the need to provide the best possible education for all pupils.