Charlie Taylor, the UK Government’s ‘behaviour tsar,’ has warned that children are missing up to a cumulative year of education through sick days and term time holidays.
Mr Taylor is also head of a special school for children with behavioral difficulties, The Willows in west London and his review of attendance in schools is part of the Government’s analysis of last years UK riots.
”There’s a big concern about some parents feeling they’ve got the entitlement to take two weeks holiday a year,” he said.
”And actually if you add the two weeks holiday a year and you factor in the average eight to 10 days that children have off for sickness and medical appointments, you’re then looking, by the time a child leaves school, at the age of 16, having effectively missed a year of their education.”
This problem is likely to get worse as the global recession continues to bite into ordinary family finances and with the growing belief that they get two automatic weeks off a year without getting into trouble or having it labeled as truancy more families are expected to take advantage of the financial savings that term-time holidays provide compared to the inflated prices of vacations during school holidays.
Mr Taylor wants to head this behaviour off and make it clear that time off school is at the discretion of the headmaster and should be the exception rather than automatic entitlement.
He is in favor of a increase in the truancy fine system and believes tougher penalties and the docking of state benefits will go a long way to reducing absenteeism. The issue is of concern to the country because research shows that while 73% of students who attain 95% attendance rates during school achieve five or more GCSEs at ‘C’ grade or higher, only 3% of pupils who have less than 50% attendance meet this benchmark.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Taylor said: “My recommendation is that the fine is swift and certain so that a parent gets the fine, if they fail to pay it within 28 days it’s doubled, and the money is taken directly from child benefit.”
Mr Taylor also warned that time missed in nursery and primary school could be as important as time missed in high school. Absence rates among four and five year olds are to be published soon to help schools spot poor attendance habits early and address them before they impact a child’s future education too severely.
”Some parents think they’re being a good parent by keeping their child off school, but actually sometimes they can be a bit trigger happy, particularly with young parents and young children,” Mr Taylor said.