It really shouldn’t be necessary for councils to have to threaten legal action and fines to ensure children attend school.
You would like to think that most parents realise that their children stand a better chance of succeeding in life – in whatever field they choose – if they have a full education. School isn’t just for those destined for academia; everyone can benefit from not just learning but discipline. It sets you up well in life.
So it’s sad – although not surprising – that at the beginning of another school year we are reporting that councils in the area are warning parents they will be getting tough on unauthorised absences. It’s already well-known that fines can be issued to parents by headteachers if children miss school without permission, and now councils have pledged that they will back that up with court action if need be.
And there can be no complaints about this. It’s not a coincidence that Portsmouth, for example, has a higher truancy rate than the national average, and performs below the average at GCSE. The two are linked – you can’t learn anything if you’re not in the classroom.
And the well-worn reasoning that holidays are too expensive outside term-time should not cut the mustard either.
Just because parents can overall save money by booking a cheaper holiday during term even with a fine levied on top, does not mean they should.
In fact, the drive to make children attend school starts at home. Parents need to impress upon their children the duty to attend school, but if their attitude is that school is an optional activity, to be picked and chosen at will, what hope does the child have of treating it with respect?
These are changing times for education in Portsmouth, with schools being turned into academies, a university technical college on the horizon and several rebuilding programmes in sight.
It would be shame if we continued to lag behind in the fair basic requirement of children actually turning up to school when they should. We will not improve standards with this.