A Dad this week lost his case about whether he should take his children out of school in term time. During the report I listened to, we heard parents who have to work at peak times, the school holidays, and so cannot take holiday time with their children. We heard how parents lie to the school, with the children laughing in the background. We finally heard from Sir Michel Wilshaw, the establishment, who berated these parents as irresponsible and that holidays should never be taken at holiday time.

So how big is the nut that needs cracking? It is a big issue in certain areas and non-existent in others. Absence does correlate to poor results but is it causation. I know parents who have taken their children out of school for a holiday but they have collected work from the school, ensuring it is completed and have always supported the school with homework and behaviour. Their children otherwise would have a 100% attendance, yet the school has to send a letter guilting and berating the parents and building barriers between them. The holiday could have been taken in the school holidays but with 2 children this would have increased costs by over £500.

We do though have an issue with parents and students who see it as OK to lie to the schools as mentioned before. Some who are outright defiant against the school. I have to wonder what is said about school in these homes. The excuses when homework is not completed. The excuse when a detention is set and they don’t have to complete it. The extra days when the child just can’t be bothered to go in. The parents probably had a poor school experience when they were at school and are passing that experience onto their children. In my experience, I see it all the time. As a maths teacher, the number of parents who shrug their shoulder and say they were no good at maths and so their children will struggle. No, No, NO.

The school system has changed fundamentally from when we were at school and the experiences the children have is significantly different. The home life of these children continually undermines the school system at home and so performance is poor. The fact that absence is one manifestation of this does not mean that all parents should be punished because of this significant minority of parents. When we have a system of one sizes fits all, but when the system is wrong should we punish the people in the system.

Absence needs to start with headteachers discretion. When the headteacher feels the attitude at home is causing issues with school, the state should then be ready to intervene and support parents and student s to ensure progress is not affected and ensure that attendance increase’s. While it is with the headteacher who have to answer to OFSTED then they will just follow process and not correct behaviour, mainly covering their back. When headteachers can look at attendance and progress and support as part of an overall picture then discretion and common sense lead the decisions that happen. If a headteacher can show this is happening then relationships are built between the parents and school and the dialogue of support and encouragement can be maintained. When the families continue to fight this, this is when the local authority should be involved. This does though mean that society gets more involved with these families that need the support and leaves others alone who can take responsibility.

2 thoughts on “A Sledgehammer to crack a nut

  1. I believe that the route cause for absence should be looked at. I frequently skipped school. Not because of my home life which was absolutely fine, I had a loving family behind me. I skipped school because I was being bullied. It would start as soon as I got on the school coach in the morning with rubbish being thrown at me and continue throughout the day with name calling, rumours and shoving. Finishing only when I reached the sanctuary of the front door to my home. Every day. The school did nothing. I was too ashamed to tell my parents. In this case it breaks my heart to think that now days my parents could be punished for my escapism when really it was the bullies fault and ultimately the fault of the school for not cracking down on bullies.


    1. It is always heartbreaking to hear how bullying affects people. As a teacher I think we deal with bullying better, but some victims are always missed. I would disagree with you though. It should have been vital to let your parents know. Bullies work on fear and when it comes out in the open they are shown as the cowards they are. The best thing that could have happened was for you to tell your parents, or the school by default, and they could have supported you and tackled the schools inadequate response to your needs. When schools get it right they can support and engage the needs of individuals so they can reach their potential. Thank you for your reply and I hope things are better now for you.


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