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Thursday Thunks

Good Attendance Still Required #ThursdayThunk

Pinging into the email box today was a letter from Nick Gibb MP about the recent High Court judgment involving Jon Platt and the Isle of Wight Council.  Basically Mr Platt argued that despite taking a term time holiday his child’s attendance was still good and consequentially the fine that had been imposed on him was unlawful.  The High Court agreed; Mr Platt’s happy but Mr Gibb is decidedly miffed.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Satisfactory attendance was defined by the school as 90% and that was a pertinent fact in making the judgement.  With the figure of below 90% being the new persistent absence figure it may be wise for schools to be defining satisfactory attendance at 95% or arguably higher.  Every day lost is a learning opportunity missed.  Whilst people may have more sympathy due to a fortnight missed due to appendicitis rather than a holiday – they are different in terms of one was a choice and the other not – the ten days missed are ten days missed.

We decided some time ago that we weren’t ever going to fine parents who went on term time holidays; it was not how we wanted to build a relationship with them parents that doesn’t mean we go soft.  The graphic below is taken from Christ the King Catholic Academy’s Attendance procedures.  The same is included in the attendance procedures for the other two academies.

Attendance Procedures

Attendance Procedures

All the academies currently have above national average attendance (compared to 2014/15 data in RAISE) and improving.  The Trust employs a Pupil Welfare Officer full time to chase poor attendees and if necessary initiate and see through court proceeding.  We won’t fine parents but we do draw a very clear line; children need to be in school and we in turn need to care for them and teach them well.  There is the necessary opportunity for the Head teachers to use discretion but this tends to be limited to more extreme medical conditions; otherwise it’s up and in and let’s get learning.

It’s likely that the Department for Education will bring forward new legislation on attendance but don’t expect too much too soon; taking on voting parents requires some careful thought.  The following is taken from the aforementioned letter and gives some advice to schools and local authorities who did use holiday fines as a means to improving attendance:

“We understand that some parents who have already been given penalty notices and have paid the penalty are asking local authorities to withdraw the notices under regulation 8 of the Education (Penalty notices) (England) Regulations 2007 and refund their payments. However, the view of the Department is that the decision in the Isle of Wight case does not require local authorities to do this, and I would expect applications of this kind to be refused in the ordinary course of events.

In the meantime, it remains the case – as set out in the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 amended in 2013 – that head teachers continue to have the power to authorise leave of absence, but only in exceptional circumstances.”

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.

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