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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