Skipping school to get some sun

GOOD EXAMPLE: Headteacher Janis Burdin with pupils at Moss Side Primary School which has the lowest absence rate in Leyland
GOOD EXAMPLE: Headteacher Janis Burdin with pupils at Moss Side Primary School which has the lowest absence rate in Leyland
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More school time has been lost in Leyland from pupils going on holiday during term time than in any other part of Lancashire.

The town’s ‘holiday absence rate’ is also significantly higher than the national average, and strict new rules are soon to be enforced to make it almost impossible for bargain-hunting parents to take children out of school to go on cheap holidays.

New data from Lancashire County Council and the Department for Education shows that of all the reasons for pupils taking time off school, going on holiday fares much higher in Leyland than it does in any other district in the county.

For the 2011/12 academic year, 12 per cent of all absences in Leyland were due to holidays in term time, which is significantly higher than the national average of 6.7 per cent.

Janis Burdin, headteacher of Moss Side Primary School, which has the lowest overall absence rate of the town’s primary schools, says parents should value their children’s education more than a bargain holiday.

Mrs Burdin said: “This is an issue which I feel really strongly about because when children are in school, they learn so much, and you can’t replace that.

“They are off for 175 days a year anyway, so if a child takes a fortnight off during term time, it means they have been in school for less than half the year.

“Parents sometimes ask for permission to take their children on holiday during school time, and they say that they will take the work with them, but you cannot reproduce what we do in school.”

She added: “I’ve sent a letter out to parents to tell them that there is no legal right for them to take children out of school, because some of them think they do have a right.

“I do acknowledge that there are some circumstances which are the exception, but a holiday being cheaper during term time is not a valid reason to miss school.

“As teachers, we know how costly it can be to go away during the school holidays, that’s just how the travel industry works, but parents should value their child’s education more than a cheap holiday.”

Current guidelines state that there is no automatic right of law for parents to take their children out of school to go on holiday, but they can ask for permission from the headteacher in advance.

At their discretion, headteachers may authorise up to ten days in ‘special’ circumstances, and over ten days only in ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

However, these rules are set to tighten from the next academic year, to make it much more difficult for parents to seek permission to take their children out of school.

Emma Lambert, Lancashire County Council attendance consultant for primary schools, explained: “From September, new government rules mean that headteachers will only be able to authorise any time off school for a holiday in exceptional circumstances.

“Each case will be looked at separately, of course, but the situation would have to be a one-off – for example, if a parent is on active service in the armed forces and only has one week’s leave at a fixed time.”

Overall absence percentages (percentage of possible sessions - half days - recorded as an absence from school for whatever reason, whether authorised or unauthorised) -

High Schools

Leyland St Mary’s Catholic Technology College (4.8%)

Academy @ Worden (4.7%)

Wellfield Business and Enterprise College (4.7%)

Balshaw’s CE High School (3.7%)

Primary Schools

Leyland St Mary’s RC Primary School (5.4%)

Northbrook Primary School (5.1%)

St Anne’s Catholic Primary School (5%)

Seven Stars Primary School (5%)

Farington Primary School (4.8%)

Woodlea Junior School (3.8%)

Leyland St Andrew’s CE Infant School (3.7%)

Leyland St James CE Primary School (3.6%)

Lancaster Lane Community Primary School (3.5%)

Leyland Methodist Infant School (3.4%)

Leyland Methodist Junior School (3.2%)

Farington Moss St Paul’s CE Primary School (3%)

Lever House Primary School (2.8%)

St Catherine’s RC Primary School (2.4%)

Moss Side Primary School (2.3%)

- For more on this story, see this week’s Leyland Guardian.

- What do YOU think about the issue? Email your views to kay.taylor@lep.co.uk