Laws: "Government’s truancy strategies are not working"

by Stephen Tall on August 27, 2009

Here’s a new one to add grist to I Hate Ryanair‘s mill – truancy rates are on the rise as more parents pull children out of school to take advantage of cheap holidays, reports the Telegraph:

Almost 68,000 pupils in England are missing classes every day, an increase of 7,000 compared with the same period last year, it was disclosed. The rise was fuelled by term-time holidays, suggesting more parents are looking for cut-price deals in the economic downturn. According to official figures, family breaks accounted for the largest number of school absences after illness.

David Laws, the Lib Dems’ shadow schools secretary, is swift to condemn:

The Government’s truancy strategies are not working. It is worrying that there has been a rise in the number of children missing school because of unauthorised holidays. Parents should not be removing their children from school without permission from their teachers.”

I guess he’s right, though I recall missing some days of school when I was young without any noticeable decline in my education. Mind you, my parents made me collect some work from my teachers to make up for my absence. As is usually the case, a caring and concerned home background was a better guarantee of educational standards than misplaced ‘presenteeism’.

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I disagree.

Parents removing children from school to take them on holiday is not the same thing as ‘truancy’ and if the Government treats it in the same way it is no wonder the strategy isn’t working.

For parents on lower incomes it may be the only way they can afford to take their children on a proper holiday away.

Rather than treating this as truancy we should be encouraging schools to take a pragmatic approach, allowing families to get a holiday but doing so in a way that does not damage the children’s progress unnecessarily. Schools should encourage parents to come in in advance and discuss the issue and plan a way to deal with it.

Dealing with actual truancy – ie children who repeatedly absent themselves from school – is an entirely different and far more serious matter.

by Liberal Neil on August 27, 2009 at 9:33 pm. Reply #

As far as I can remember this was common practice when I were a lad, and I don’t remember it being considered a problem. There are plenty of parents who can’t afford to take holidays during peak season or are unable to take leave during the school holidays (I’m on my first week of leave this year at the moment, and the schools have already gone back in Scotland). To treat it as truancy when these parents take their sprogs out of school for a couple of weeks is absurd, and looks suspiciously like a cynical way of improving on-paper truancy levels and hitting arbitrary targets without actually solving any genuine truancy.

And the phrase “unauthorised holidays” made me shudder.

by iainm on August 27, 2009 at 10:06 pm. Reply #

Well said, Liberal Neil. I took my daughter out of school – with permission – to visit the Hampton Court Flower Show last year. Would I have gone without permission? Of course. For a primary school kid it is far too crowded at weekends, and it is one of many educational things that many parents take their kids out of school for. I would imagine snorkelling comes into that category, so if the only way you can afford it is to go out of season, well, I think that might be a good thing to do…

by tim leunig on August 27, 2009 at 10:15 pm. Reply #

I totally disagree with David Laws on this: I took my daughter out of school as and when I saw fit, and without seeking ‘permission’ from teachers. Education is not just about kids sitting in classrooms bored out of their heads while teachers grind through the national curriculum – maybe some of that is necessary, but I’m not even sure about that. I have a lot of respect for David, but he needs to meet homeschoolers, people who practice child-centred education, people who reject the interference of the State in their children’s development; he needs to lighten up and become a little more liberal in his attitudes towards education.

by tony hill on August 28, 2009 at 5:46 pm. Reply #

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