Call for change over term-time school fines in Portsmouth

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  • Rules were made stricter in 2013 meaning parents are reported for taking children out of school
  • They can be fined – or even jailed
  • Local Government Association says it is time for ‘common sense’ approach
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A ‘COMMON-SENSE’ approach should be applied to parents taking children out of school for holidays.

That’s the view of the Local Government Association, which is calling for more flexibility from schools that impose fines on parents.

I would welcome a common sense approach to the situation

Margaret Beel

Strict new rules on term-time holidays – including fines – were introduced two years ago to crack down on absence. But the LGA says the system is unworkable and is calling for change.

Margaret Beel, headteacher of Lyndhurst Junior School in North End, Portsmouth, said she agreed and believed her feelings were shared by many of her colleagues.

‘I would welcome a common-sense approach to the situation’ said Mrs Beel.

‘It is very difficult. I now spend a lot more time explaining to parents and it certainly does not help parental engagement when you’re making difficult decisions.

‘At the moment we have to report them to the local authority – we don’t have any choice.

‘I don’t think parents understand – they think we’re being very harsh. It’s one of the most difficult decisions we have to make. As we’re a large school I get a lot of requests.’

Nationwide, fines have trebled in the past two years, with 86,000 in the academic year 2014/15.

Headteachers are able to grant 10 days’ leave in exceptional circumstances. But now, under new stricter rules, a holiday cannot be classed as an exceptional circumstance.

Non-authorised absences must be reported to local authorities and parents face a fine of £60. It rises to £2,500 or jail if not paid.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘It is a myth that missing school even for a short time is harmless to a child’s education. Our evidence shows missing the equivalent of just one week a year can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades.’