Right of Reply: David Hart

The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers replies to an article on absent pupils
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The Independent Culture
DAVID AARONOVITCH'S article ("Please Sir, may I take my children on holiday to the Seychelles?") deserves a reply.

The NAHT's view is that the law, covering the right to take children on family holidays during term time, is being abused, almost to breaking point. More and more parents ignore the fact that they are required to obtain the consent of the head. School policies are waved aside as if they do not exist.

Not all absences adversely affect the education of the children, but many do. Very little has been said about the impact on the other pupils in the class. Even less has been said about the importance of pupils being present on the first day of term.

Of course, there are families who do find it difficult to take holidays during the 14 weeks set aside. The travel companies tempt parents with cheap offers. But the vast majority of schools do take a very strong line on absence during term time. These policies are endorsed by the governing bodies, on which many of the parents sit.

David Blunkett was not talking just about children being absent for one, two or three weeks at a time. The Government is driving an intensive standards agenda. Yet it is the very people who are often the most vociferous about the need to raise standards, who criticise heads for enforcing policies that have received the endorsement of the majority of parents in their schools. The current controversy has, at least, drawn attention to the need to resolve an issue which is getting increasingly out of hand.

Government ministers should throw their weight behind all attempts by schools to ensure that the law is observed, and that policies designed to reinforce standards are supported.