Term-Time Holidays

14 Jan

I have commented a few times in the past about the importance of allowing headteachers the freedom of discretion when it comes to allowing pupils to take holiday’s during term-time.  This has been a particularly hot topic since the introduction of truancy fines.  Coupled with these financial penalties we have seen attendance becoming an increasingly important tool in terms of holding school accountable.  So much so that local authorities have instructed schools they should refuse all requests for term-time leave.

It is welcome then that the Minister has written to councils in Wales to say that headteachers should have discretion in this decision and that advising them against it goes against the guidance.

Of course you do have to feel for both schools and local authorities.  On the one hand the Welsh Government are now telling them that they do have the right to use discretion.  Which is a positive step as there are numerous reasons why school leaders may wish to exercise that option.  However, on the other hand, those same school leaders are going to see their place in the categorization model determined, in part, by their attendance ratings.  They are also going to continue to have pressures put on them by consortia and local authorities, who themselves are going to have pressure on them from the Welsh Government, to ensure attendance ratings do not drop.  if they do then we will undoubtedly see schools punished in their accountability measures.

Perhaps what is needed is a way to dis-aggregate legitimately justifiable term-time leave from the school attendance ratings in a way that allows reasonable flexibility in the system while not impacting on the way attendance is viewed in schools.  That is something that needs further thinking.

Despite these remaining issues and the potential for confusion in the system it is still positive the Minister has made this statement and hopefully it allows schools to reclaim some of the professional judgment around the issue that they previously lost.

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