Headteachers currently have the power to authorise pupils’ absence during term-time, but that could all change. Do you think parents should be allowed to take their children out of school for a family holiday?
I hate to admit it, but I’m a little scared of my daughter’s headteacher. So when she tells us not to take holidays during term time, we don’t.
We do what she wants not only because she’s an impressive authority figure who has the ability to make parents feel like naughty school children themselves, but because we don’t want our daughter to miss lessons.
That said, this year will be the first time we are confronted by the cost of going away in the school holidays as our daughter only started school last September.
Will truancy go down?
There’s little chance of the travel industry bringing down prices during peak times – the laws of supply and demand dictate that it will always be more expensive to travel during school holidays. So in a few years’ time when we’re worn down by the costs, we may well be among the parents asking for ‘authorised absence’ to take time off during term time to save some cash.
I’m pretty sure our headteacher would say ‘no’, and we’d do as we’re told, but other heads might agree more easily – and other parents might use the time to fly off on holiday.
And that’s why education secretary Michael Gove wants to end headteachers’ discretion to authorise up to two weeks’ absence, which is supposed to be for illness, bereavement or bad weather. The aim is to cut down on truancy, which I’m all for, but I’m not convinced this will help.
Teachers should have responsibility
Authorised absence is not supposed to be used for holidays anyway, but parents who are determined to save the cash are finding a way round it.
If headteachers’ discretion to grant time off is taken away, those same parents might simply invent other reasons for being away – such as illness. Will they have to produce doctors’ certificates each time, and will they be fined if they can’t? Who’s going to enforce that?
Also, isn’t the coalition government supposed to believe in devolving more power to local people? How does that fit with taking discretion away from headteachers?
I haven’t got an easy answer to the problem, but I think it’s something to do with parents having respect for teachers and valuing education. Perhaps those who want to take children out during school term should be required to stand up at assembly and explain the reason why?
How would you tackle the issue? Has Michael Gove got the answer, or is there another way?