We ask the National Assembly for Wales to ensure that schools are free to exercise their statutory powers under regulation 7 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 without interference from bodies such as regional educational consortia and local authorities and without threat of penalisation through school inspection, performance judgement and banding processes.
Local authorities in Wales and their consortia are recommending that schools do not exercise their statutory powers under the above legislation leaving more families exposed to the threat of penalty notices under the Education (Penalty Notices) (Wales) Regulations 2013 than would have been otherwise. These recommendations are made on the basis that they can improve attainment despite the lack of evidence that absence of the type allowed under regulation 7 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 results in poorer attainment.
Currently schools in Wales can be penalised through inspection, performance judgement and school banding processes for authorising legitimate absences such as sickness, family holidays or other events or instances which enable families to participate fully in a normal, private family life.
These recommendations and processes bias schools against the authorisation of legitimate absence and make schools reluctant to exercise their statutory powers under regulation 7 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010. This can damage the home/school relationship and child well-being. Where a family disagrees with a decision to refuse authorisation of absence on the grounds of equality, human rights or child well-being there is no independent route of appeal. Where a family disregards a decision to refuse authorisation of absence the issue of a penalty notice and potential criminalisation can result. There is an economic impact on the Welsh tourism and leisure industry which provides employment and income to many of our families.
Regulation 7 of The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 gives schools the discretionary power to authorise up to 10 days absence during a school year for family holidays and more than 10 days absence in exceptional circumstances.
Schools are being advised against exercising this power by their local authorities. They are feeling pressured to improve school attendance figures by Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, who can penalise them if attendance falls below a certain level.
The drive to improve attendance is based on an assumption that it will improve educational attainment. This is an over-simplification of a very complex issue. Attendance and attainment are linked but a causative relationship is not proven. Research shows that absence for family holidays does not affect attainment at primary school level, and a small degree of absence is unlikely to have any effect at secondary school level. ("A Profile of Pupil Absence, 2011, DfE").
A school's refusal to authorise an absence which is allowable under the law can seriously damage the home/school relationship, particularly if the family believe that the absence is important to their child's well-being and take their child out of school anyway. The family can receive a penalty notice (fine) or be criminalised.
There are many legitimate reasons why children and families need the flexibility to be absent from school during term time which include difficulty obtaining annual leave during school holidays, important family events, geographical remoteness from non-resident parents, grandparents and extended family. Families employed in the Welsh tourism and leisure industry have felt a significant economic impact from the English term time holiday ban this year. The Good Childhood Report 2014 identified school as only ONE of the ten aspects of life with the greatest influence on child well-being. Family, home, finances, friends, health and choice were among the others.
Petitioner :Pembs Parents Want a Say / Rhieni Pembs eisiau cael dweud
First considered by the Committee:
Number of Signatures: 812 electronic signatures
Business type: Petition
Reason considered: Assembly Business;
First published: 22/10/2014