Creating a new school year would be like herding cats

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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In principle, the idea of shaking up the school year in Portsmouth to give families the chance of cheaper holidays is a good one.

It would have the intention of cutting truancy rates and the enormous number of parents fined for taking their offspring out of school.

Dinner party chatter often revolves around how much the family saved even after the fine had been levied. And who can blame them?

Brighton is considering it and now Portsmouth might investigate the pros and cons too.

The plan would be to lop off a week from the six-week summer holidays, which parents already find too long, and create a standalone week’s holiday when going away is less expensive.

Inset days could also be co-ordinated into a block to create a long weekend or even a full week’s break at a time when holidays are less dear.

If the city council could do something to offer lower-income families the chance to take holidays that would otherwise be unaffordable, it has got to be worth exploring.

But before you start clicking for the online brochures, there are many things to consider.

Being fined for taking their children out of the classroom has become something of a badge of honour among some middle-class parents.

Dinner party chatter often revolves around how much the family saved even after the fine had been levied. And who can blame them?

In Portsmouth the number of parents fined in the past two years has trebled.

But Portsmouth Tory education boss Councillor Neill Young is right when he says such a scheme could be difficult to introduce.

With such a mix of academy, state-run and private schools in the city, getting them all to agree when the standalone week might fall will be like herding cats. And what about the parents with children at infants, junior and secondary schools?