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29 May 2014

Parents push for term-time holiday changes

A new campaign is seeking a judicial review on a policy that sees parents face sky-high fines and even prison terms for taking their children out of school during term time.

Dubbed Parents Want a Say, the campaign is coordinated by Karen Wilkinson, a mother of three, who claims that the policy installed by education secretary Michael Gove last year is unworkable.

Ms Wilkinson says what many parents have been thinking - that the high price of taking children overseas during school holidays is just too much for some families. But, she stresses that money is not the only issue here.

For instance, she highlights that for many families, travelling during the school holidays is simply not possible due to the nature of the parents' work, pointing particularly to adults who work in the military or NHS. And she adds that the policies have a negative impact on industry, too, because businesses cannot afford to allow all the parents on their payroll to take their annual leave at the same time, adding weight to the argument that the policies need to be reviewed.

And there are yet more arguments to support the campaign's aims. It has been noted that requests for single-day absences for things like family weddings or visiting ailing relatives are being denied - something that the group claims is detrimental to family life.

As such, the group is calling for the restoration of a previous policy, which allowed up to ten days of school absence once a year for children who hold a good attendance record.

So far, the campaign has received huge support from parents across the country, with more than 200,000 signatures recorded since the initiative began.

But supporters of the education secretary's policies claim that the new rules are vital to children's education, highlighting that any time taken out of school can have a detrimental effect on learning and, subsequently, exam results.

However, supporters of the campaign counter that current policies are too dictatorial, and that children's absences should be placed back in the hands of the parent, rather than the government.

Posted by Robin Western