Drop in school days lost to term-time holidays
SCHOOL days lost to term-time holidays have been cut dramatically after get-tough moves in the East Riding.
Days taken out of class for family breaks are down by 38 per cent, according to latest annual figures.
But the council insists there is still room for improvement after almost 20,000 school days were taken for holidays in 2011-12.
Councillor Julie Abraham, portfolio holder for East Riding schools, said: "It's going in the right direction, which is really pleasing, but we can't be complacent – children have to be in school to learn.
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"We want parents to give proper priority to children's education."
A crackdown was launched after the East Riding's holiday rate was declared the worst in the country, with 56,105 school days lost for holidays in 2008-09.
Hundreds of parents are now paying the penalty, with 570 issued with £50 fines in 2011-12 for flouting strict new rules.
It is thought many parents are opting to pay the fixed penalty so they can have a cheaper holiday in school time.
The council is now urging all schools to sign up to the holiday policy so there is consistency across the East Riding.
More than 100 primaries and secondaries have adopted the policy but 39 have not.
Cllr Abraham said: "It's a good start but we need more schools to sign up to the policy."
Figures have shown schools failing to adopt the guidelines are not cutting holiday absence at the same rate as those operating the policy.
The authority also says there is no evidence of an upsurge in families claiming sick leave to take holidays, as absence for illness went down by 6,451 days in 2010-11.
Officials have also issued a warning about the cumulative effect of children being taken out of class for family breaks.
Those who take a two-week annual break in term-time, together with an average number of sick days, will miss a full year of education by the age of 16.
John Killeen, branch secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "We welcome the drop in absence rates.
"As a group of heads we are not insensitive to the financial plight of families but school is about children's education – they should be in school during term time."
It is thought some feeder primaries may not have signed up to the policy because it is not operated by some of the academies.
Others are operating their own versions of the policy.
Mr Killeen said: "I would like all schools and academies to adopt a common policy that was supported by all governors and the local authority fully."
A report will go before the council's children and young people and overview sub-committee next week.
Councillor Kerri Harold, who chairs the committee, said: "It's about changing the mind-set of parents, and there's still a way to go.
"But we also have to strike a balance. There is some leeway in the policy for certain circumstances."