School term times ‘should be shifted’

FUN IN THE SUN ... the Sun was out for the August Bank Holiday  ( on the beach Elie Shortland and brother Alfie Birks  )
FUN IN THE SUN ... the Sun was out for the August Bank Holiday ( on the beach Elie Shortland and brother Alfie Birks )
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An MP today called for Fylde coast schools to move holiday times to allow families to take breaks.

Mark Menzies made the comments after sitting in on a Parliamentary debate on term time absenteeism.

The Fylde MP says schools should consider the move due to many parents in the area who work in the tourism industry being unable to take time off during the normal periods.

Speaking to The Gazette in Westminster, Mr Menzies said: “I have constituents who have come to see me where they work where they work all the way through the holiday season and simply can’t take the time off to have a family holiday during the peak tourist season.

“The only time they will be able to get away is during the school term.

“This debate highlighted the discretion must rest on the heads of schools, but also that education authorities need to look at flexibility.

“In the case of Blackpool and the Fylde coast there is a case to be made for schools moving one of the half-term holidays forward to enable parents locally to get the time as a family on holiday, but also to prevent children missing on valuable school days.”

Under current policy, families who remove children during term time are being hit with an immediate fixed fine from their schools. If they fail to pay, they will be taken to court.

The threshold for penalty notices is 10 half-day sessions of unauthorised absence in one term, or 20 in two consecutive terms. The fine is £60, if paid within 21 days, increasing to £120 if paid within 28 days.

And the number of fines is soaring. Between September and December 2012, 204 were issues across Lancashire.

That increased to 972 in the same period in 2013.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “There are two issues here. I believe consideration should be given to local authorities having more power to make decisions locally about when half terms fall, in order to meet specific local circumstances.

“At the same time the Government needs to have a proper look at how the holiday market is working.

“This is a very important issue, not just for families in Blackpool but also those working in the tourism industry.”

Paul Maynard, who represents Blackpool North and Cleveleys, added:“It is becoming much more common for headteachers to issue fines when children go on holiday during term time, as the rules have changed giving them less discretion.

“At the same time, the Government is allowing schools more freedom for when they actually have school holidays, and many schools may drop the long summer holidays in favour of shorter but more frequent holidays.

“This will alter the pricing mechanisms of the tour operators also, but may cause problems if your children’s schools have differing holiday dates.

“I think there needs to be informal agreements that feeder primary schools for secondary schools agree joint holiday dates to reduce the size of the problem.”