Highland parents warned over “increasing trend” of holidays during term

Education chiefs have sent letters to parents in the Highlands warning against the “increasing trend” of pupils being taken out of school to go on holiday.

They warn mothers, fathers and guardians to “very carefully consider the implications” of arranging trips during term.

Jim Steven, Highland Council’s head of education, called for support from parents, telling them they play a “vital role” in minimising absences.

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The issue has repeatedly hit the headlines in recent years, with a father from the Isle of Wight who took his daughter out of school for a family holiday losing his legal battle in the Supreme Court earlier this year.

In his letter, which was posted on social media by Charleston Academy in Inverness, Mr Steven said: “Parents play a vital role in ensuring their son or daughter attends school as much as possible.

“While the vast majority of parents plan family holidays within the allocated 12 weeks during the year, there has been an increasing trend for some parents to remove pupils from schools for holidays.

“My reason for writing to you is to ask you to very carefully consider the implications on your son or daughter’s education if you decide to remove him or her from school for a family holiday.”

He said he was aware that for some parents it was not always possible to plan trip during school summer holidays, but urged them to wait until the October break if that is the case.

The senior official said taking pupils away from school can result in a “significant loss in classroom experience”, as well as “pressure to ‘catch up’ on missed work”, with pupils potentially missing assessments, while affecting school attendance records.

Schools will not normally give a family permission to take pupils away for holidays during term-time, and councils can issue attendance orders under section 38 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1980, with non-compliance potentially resulting in a prosecution against the parent in the sheriff court.

A sheriff is able to fine or imprison the parent if they are found guilty.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Although only around 0.5% of days were lost to unauthorised holiday absences in 2014/15, it is important that schools and parents continue to do all they can to ensure good attendance to maintain children’s attainment.

“It is up to education authorities to decide what sanctions they will use if there is an unauthorised absence.

“The Scottish Government will continue to support local authorities, schools and parents to do all they can to ensure good attendance in addition to our considerable investment in raising attainment.”

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