Carrot or stick - is fining parents having the desired effect?

Emma Hunt
22 October, 2015 : 10:20
1     0

This kind of conflict between schools and parents is in danger of destroying the supportive and respectful relationship that parents and schools need to embrace if we are to achieve significant results for our children. 

I welcome yesterday’s call from the Local Government Association for a common sense approach to fining parents for taking their child out of class in term time. The policy change two years ago which tightened up the regulations so that holidays are not allowed to be classed as special circumstances in which a parent can take a child out of school, has meant that fines have increased substantially; the Press Association report a massive hike in fines over the period from 32,512 in 2012/3 to 86,010 in 2014/15.

However, rather than scaring parents, it seems that it has had the opposite effect and has actually mobilised them; 230,000 parents have signed a petition against the fines; some are fighting (and winning) in the courts and the more pragmatic ones are seemingly just weighing up the £60 fine against the savings in the cost of the holiday they are planning.

The one thing that this change in policy does seem to have achieved is positioning schools and parents against each other in an unhelpful and antagonistic way, reminding me of the headlines in the summer about fining parents for not attending parents’ evenings. This will not help parents’ engagement or relationship with the school. 

In defence of the policy, the Department for Education have issued a statement saying that there is evidence to show the equivalent of a child missing just one week a year from school can mean they are less likely to achieve good GCSE grades. This is of course true in secondary school, but less relevant for primary aged children. Furthermore, there is another more powerful piece of evidence that should be considered here - a parent’s engagement in their child’s education can be equivalent to between two to three years of additional schooling. There is unequivocal evidence that parental engagement is vital to a child’s education. This can be made up of many things, but there is no doubt that the parent’s relationship with the school is an important dynamic in this equation. 

Parentkind is advocating that parents are consulted in policy development from the start to avoid conflict down the line. In my view, this kind of conflict between schools and parents is in danger of destroying the supportive and respectful relationship that parents and schools need to embrace if we are to achieve significant results, both academic and pastoral, for our children. 

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Our blog is a place for a range of opinions and debate on parents and their role in their schools and their children’s education.  Whilst we think this debate is really important, we don’t always agree with the views being expressed.  



Annette Wiles
29 October 2015
This is a really interesting piece. Whilst for parents the cost saving on a family holiday during term time is likely to still be greater than any fine these still appear to have had an impact. In March this year, the Government announced that the number of days missed due to family holidays had fallen by 1.4 million since the 2013/2014 academic year. But without proper research (talking to parents!) it’s hard to know what has made the difference; is it the threat of the fine or that these have been accompanied by lots of messages to parents about how much attendance matters to how well their children do at school? I know my son's primary school has worked hard over recent years to better inform parents about the impact of lots of time out of school.
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