Term time leave row rumbles on

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall
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Blackpool’s schools chief has added his views to the debate over allowing children time off during term, saying the decision should be down to headteachers.

It comes after the debate was further fuelled as a petition was delivered to Parliament calling for a ban to be lifted.

The petition, with 126,000 signatures, has been handed to the Department for Education (DfE) calling for its ban on children in England taking breaks not in holiday time to be reversed.

And Blackpool Council’s new cabinet member for schools and education has added his voice to the debate.

Coun Ivan Taylor said: “When children are out of school for any reason it can have an effect.

“I do have some sympathy though for people who can’t afford it.”

Until September headteachers had powers to grant up to 10 days off during term time for family holidays in “special circumstances”.

But now headteachers cannot grant any absence except in “exceptional circumstances”.

Coun Taylor said he believes the decision should be made at a headteacher’s discretion, although subject to strict criteria in order to meet the child’s best interests.

He said: “I don’t agree on a total ban [but] I think they have to make a very good case. If there are exceptional reasons why it is a good idea then I think exceptions can be made.

“I think heads should be very strong and disciplined.”

Campaigners say many families cannot afford the high costs charged for breaks during holiday times.

Coun Taylor added: “The scandal is that prices go up so much and very often it’s only out of holiday time that prices are such that families can afford.”

But the DfE has said it is giving schools more freedom to set their own term dates.

A spokesman for the DfE said: “If children aren’t in school they lose out on valuable learning time and have to waste more time catching up.

“That’s why children shouldn’t be taken out of school during term time unless absolutely necessary.”

Teenagers defended against a pirate attack when they visited the ship bridge simulator at Fleetwood Nautical College.

The 30 pupils from Fleetwood High School topped off a six-week project with Blackpool and the Fylde College with the exercise, having visited the campus on Fleetwood Road as part of citizenship classes.

The Year Nine pupils learned about anti-piracy techniques, took part in a simulated pirate attack and looked at the electronic communications equipment.

They also heard from a Fleetwood student who experienced a pirate attack while at sea. The program was instigated by Neil Atkinson, head of the campus and a Fleetwood High School old boy, to inspire youngsters.

He said: “We’re hoping we may have inspired some children to think about a career at sea but also to help them realise the importance of English, maths and science subjects as these are all important for a career in the merchant navy.”

Pupil Jamie Hunter said: “It was really exciting to do the simulator, but it’s a lot harder than it looks to navigate a ship.”

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