Some quick answers to frequently asked questions about the campaign
What is the campaign hoping to achieve?
This campaign seeks to reverse the amendments to the term time family holiday rules under The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 which came into force on 1 September 2013.
Craig Langman, started the ‘Reverse the Changes to School Term Time Family Holiday Rules’ petition in 2013, it now has more than 200,000 signatures. He has subsequently started ‘Parents Want a Say’ a non-profit organisation built to represent family rights.
How has school attendance policy changed?
Prior to 1st Sept 2013, head teachers had the discretion to allow up to 10 days authorised absence from school. They are now only allowed to grant leave during exceptional circumstances. There has been no guidance given to schools on what “exceptional” should mean, however it has become clear that the Government would not like children to be taken out of school under any circumstances.
The government has maintained this is merely a re-stating of existing law yet they had to pass a Statutory Instrument in order to do so.
Why are parents asking for the changes to be reversed?
Parents are not saying that taking children out of school for family holidays is an absolute right, but are asking for the rules to revert back to those that were in place until September 2013 where the head teacher could decide.
That policy resulted in only 0.5% absenteeism and the government has provided no statistical evidence to prove that the change will significantly improve pupil attainment.
These changes will adversely affect the many families who cannot afford the cost of a holiday in school holidays.
The change will also impact all businesses who cannot allow the majority of staff to take time off at the same time.
We believe the Department for Education:
• Fails to take account of the financial and work related pressures families currently face and the impact of these upon the wider wellbeing of our children
• Is making unacceptable intrusions into family life
• is driving a wedge between parents and the education system
• Is making policy without consultation with the people who are most affected: pupils and parents.
Why has the policy been changed?
It was changed at the suggestion of the Government’s Expert Adviser on Behaviour, Charlie Taylor. Mr Taylor’s review on attendance primarily looked into the issues around serious and persistent absence. It was based on conversations with a range of people but not parents or pupils. It contains no references to any sources or academic research.
The Department maintains there is a causal link between attendance and attainment.
How big is the problem they are trying to tackle?
0.5% of possible sessions in the school year were missed through family holidays. We believe there are some fundamental flaws with the study:
• The statistics cover all absences combined and are therefore far too crude to show any causation between family holidays and attainment.
• That the wrong range of absences is used to examine this causation.
• Even if there is a link between attendance and attainment, no evidence has been put forward to show that one causes the other – the cause may be to do with a higher variable eg child stress levels, poverty, unemployment, parental belief in education etc.
• Looking at one year’s absence levels against attainment is not considering the fact that a child’s attainment is the product not of that one year but of their entire school career.
In short, the statistics prove nothing other than that further research is required in order to establish whether there is any causal relationship at all between time off for family holidays and attainment. The Department has not provided any such research.
Who do the rules apply to?
Children and families in state funded schools, including free schools. Families with children in private schools are not affected.
What are the consequences for parents?
Parents who do not have the school's permission for their child's absence face a maximum fine of £60 per pupil, per parent. That rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Those who refuse to pay can face court action and, if prosecuted, a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible jail sentence of up to three months.
Why are parents objecting?
Besides the fundamental fact that the evidence base for the policy is completely unproven as discussed above, different parents have different objections. Here are a few:
• State interference with family life
• Relationships with schools
• Lack of parental voice