The law has not changed
MR WELLS notes that school term-time holiday guidelines require every case to be taken on its merits and then states that this is not the case, all being treated the same.
MR WELLS notes that school term-time holiday guidelines require every case to be taken on its merits and then states that this is not the case, all being treated the same. Not so - as I said before, there are occasions when special, one-off circumstances do lead to authorisation; what Mr Wells does not embrace is the need for transparency - it would not take long for a bi-partite system to emerge where articulate parents could construct reasonable and persuasive requests whilst less articulate parents were denied such prerogative.
Also, if there is not a rigorous interpretation of the guidelines - the same for everyone - I can predict a return to the ridiculous situation of parents and schools expecting and allowing 'up to 10 days for family holidays' as the norm! This is where we were just a handful of years ago - both expected and allowed. And Mr Wells is wrong to assert that the law only changed about three years ago; the law has not changed one iota - the interpretation of the guidelines had sunk into this loose set of expectations and it was a tightening up of this interpretation that occurred so recently - 10 days holiday is over five per cent of the total expected attendance.
However, there is one thing on which Tony Wells and I fully agree - the local authority sponsored ski trip was a spectacular own goal that has seriously undermined the stance I both take as a headteacher and support as being right.
I have told them so and sincerely hope such a travesty will never happen again.
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Such trips are excellent for children and staff - they see each other in different circumstances and strengthen their relationships, giving children a more independent experience away from home; they should exist but should be in clear and transparent circumstances - such as a whole school activities week where all students are engaged in an alternative curriculum or a traditional alternative for a particular year group such as the Year 6 'camp' or they should be in times of school closure.
As for training, the arrangements I explained - positioning as many of the training days to abut with school closures - would align with what Mr Wells is after; that training is done, for all intents and purposes, in school closure time. And governors do set these days. Ok, Mr Wells, you are quite right that as head I am a governor (one of 20) and will (at least I hope so) have a large amount of influence in such a decision; but the point I was trying to make is that governors are largely parents. The majority of Churchill's governing body are parents of children at the school and they do champion parents' interests...but not on this matter, as they are required to ensure I do all I can to minimise absence.
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The remainder of Mr Wells' argument seems to hinge on a clash of priorities and interests between the private and the public sector. He asserts his democratic right to challenge the law requiring attendance; no one denies him this. But can he really be serious that parents should be given the right to withdraw their children from school when they deem it right? What of the parents, less supportive of education in general than I'm sure he is or those who run their own businesses who 'need a hand', who would put other priorities first?
The law concerning attendance at school was made to answer the abject poverty of children across the land and remains in place even today as the real guarantee of an education for all. All children are entitled to an education, thus the law, and I will defend that principle to my dying breath.
What might be a useful line of argument for Mr Wells (and one I would support - although as a minority voice in education currently) is a recasting of the 190 days.
The present arrangements reflect a pre-technological agricultural world revolving around harvest and have remnants of the world organised around the liturgical calendar - both have little relevance today.
Some academies have grasped this nettle with new arrangements - five evenly distributed terms and longer breaks generally but a shorter summer closure; this, I believe, is better for children's learning and more flexible for families. Bring on that debate please!
Finally - yes, Mr Wells, developing rounded young adults is more than 'school' and more power to the elbow of parents who forge that enriching experience to help their children grow into confident and positive people.
This does not have to be at the expense of attendance at school - this is the one thing on which we clearly disagree; many children of teachers and other staff who work in schools are well rounded and from strong families. They don't take their children out of school, so it must be possible.
DR BARRY WRATTEN
Churchill Community Foundation School