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Tackling Absence From School: Every Lesson Counts


WEBWIRE

15 November 2005, Parents could obtain discounts and free child places on family breaks taken during the school holidays as the Government today joined forces with the travel industry to launch Every Lesson Counts, a new drive to tackle absence from schools.

The Government also confirmed it is expanding the ‘Fast Track to Attendance’ programme to target over 10,000 ‘serial truants’ who account for 1 in 5 of all instances of truancy across the country, with their parents facing a penalty notice or court prosecution unless their child’s attendance improves.

The Every Lesson Counts campaign will highlight incentives available to families who book their breaks early for the school holiday periods, rather than opting for a trip during term-time which can disrupt their children’s education.

It will also underline the importance of regular school attendance, encouraging parents to avoid taking their children out of school where at all possible, for example, by planning ahead to book routine appointments outside school hours.

A dedicated website http://www.parentscentre.gov.uk/everylessoncounts will provide links to key early booking deals on domestic and overseas holidays as well as offers specially tailored for the campaign by major holiday companies such as Thomas Cook, Airtours, BA Holidays, Virgin Holidays, and the Co-operative Group.

Every Lesson Counts has been developed by the Department for Education and Skills, in partnership with the Association of British Travel Agents, the Federation of Tour Operators and VisitBritain. Offers will be updated as the campaign moves forward, however, among the inaugural deals for early booking for next year’s summer holidays are:

• up to £100 saving per adult on BA Holidays’ 2006 Florida Summer holidays with one child staying free;

• first child goes free at Butlins’ holiday resorts; and family prices from £209 for selected three and four night breaks over the February half term, a saving of £69 per family;

• first child goes free for selected summer 2006 family holidays with Airtours.

Initially targeting 8,000 pupils, the ‘Fast Track to Attendance’ will now expand to target over 10,000 this year. Parents of the most persistent truants will be placed immediately onto the scheme where a penalty notice or court prosecution will be triggered unless their child’s attendance improves over a 12-week period, which may result in a fine of up to £2,500 or three months’ imprisonment.

National truancy sweeps are now also running across the country until the end of the month where teams of police and education welfare officers will be patrolling the nation’s streets, challenging young people who are out of school to provide an authorised reason for their absence. Truants will be immediately returned to their schools or an agreed place of safety.

Under the Government’s attendance drive, schools are taking a tougher line on authorising time away from school, leading to record levels of school attendance, with some 50,000 more pupils attending school each day than in 1997.

Estimated to account for up to one in six of all absences from school, many schools are now refusing permission for term-time holidays in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Schools are also less tolerant where term-time holidays are taken without permission, making sure that they are recorded as unauthorised, which can trigger sanctions such as penalty notice fines.

A typical local education authority saw the daily average number of pupils on a term-time holiday with the school’s permission fall from 318 in 2003/04 to 276 in 2004/05. At the same time it saw the daily average number of pupils on a term-time holiday without the school’s permission rise from 12 in 2003/04 to 15 in 2004/05.

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith said:

”Taking a holiday during term-time can mean that children miss important school time and coursework. A term-time holiday is all too often seen as the rule, when it should be the exception.

“I am pleased to have the support of the travel industry in encouraging parents to book early for the school holiday periods, so that they can take a break without disrupting their children’s education.”

Keith Betton, Head of Corporate Affairs at the Association of British Travel Agents, said:

“We are pleased to be working with the Department for Education and Skills on this important campaign. Although holidays bought in the UK are some of the most competitively priced in the world, supply and demand can lead to price difference in periods of peak demand. This campaign gives families an excellent opportunity to plan and book early to keep holiday costs down.”

Ian Ailles, Chairman of the Federation of Tour Operators said:

“Tour operators recognise the importance of education for all children, and we welcome this opportunity to work with the Department for Education and Skills on this campaign to encourage customers to book holidays early to travel during the school holiday periods.”

Sir Digby Jones, Director-General of the CBI said:

“Where families are booking their holidays well in advance, we would urge employers to consider requests from parents sympathetically where their business needs allow. Term-time should be almost sacrosanct. The UK economy needs significantly more young people to leave school with the skills required to succeed in the workplace - ensuring more children attend school is in the interests of tomorrow’s business as well as today’s.”

Editor’s Notes
This press notice relates to ’England’

1. Annual attendance data for 2004/05 shows that overall school attendance continues to rise and has reached a new record level, with 8,000 more pupils regularly attending school every day in the previous year - 50,000 more than in 1996/97.

2. Schools and local authorities are seizing new powers such as penalty notices and parenting contracts to tackle truancy. Since last September, 3,400 penalty notices have been issued, over 5,700 parents have entered parenting contracts and around 21,000 parents have been placed on the Fast Track to Attendance system to improve their child’s attendance.

3. The Every Lesson Counts campaign follows trials last year with tour operators which partnered with over 80 local authorities to offer discounts to families for the school summer holidays 2005.



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