SCHOOLS across Shirebrook have joined forces to launch a campaign to boost pupils’ attendance by banning families from taking holidays in term time.
So far, six schools in the area have teamed up in an attempt to improve local youngsters’ attendance throughout the entire duration of their education.
In return, families with pupils at five of the schools are being offered the chance to snap up cheap deals from travel agent Thomas Cook for breaks taken during school holidays to help them avoid paying premium prices.
The initiative is being led by Shirebrook Academy and The Park Schools Federation – made up of Park Infants and Park Junior schools – Anthony Bek Community Primary School, Brookfield Primary School and St Joseph Primary School have all signed up to the agreement, with parents being told about the new plans this term.
They have been warned that they will be forced to explain their actions to the school governors and could even face fines of up to £50 if they take children out of school for holidays – unless the breaks are taken in exceptional circumstances, such as a family wedding held overseas.
Shirebrook Academy was the first school to warn parents that it would not grant them permission to take pupils out of school during term-time in 2010 and headteacher Julie Bloor, pictured, believes their stance will continue to benefit pupils.
“I am delighted to have joined forces with our local primary schools to send out the message that taking a holiday in term-times damages a child’s education,” she said.
“Ever since we changed our policy, and we have been relentless in our no-holidays campaign, we have improved our attendance figures and improved our results significantly. I have no doubt that the two go hand in hand.
“We do understand that holidays taken outside school term times are more expensive, which is why we are pleased to have extended our association with Thomas Cook, but the educational needs of our pupils is our priority.
“Working in partnership with other schools in the town on this matter will ensure that those needs are safeguarded right the way through every pupil’s school life.”
Miss Bloor says that the crackdown on absences has helped the school enjoy its best ever GCSE results this year, while parents were also helped by being allowed to take advantage of a holiday discount scheme run by Thomas Cook’s branch in Market Place, Shirebrook.
Studies show that children who miss a lot of study never catch up again and children who are taken out of school for a two week holiday every year and have an average number of days off for sickness and appointments miss an entire year of their schooling by the time they are 16.
Steve Hewitt-Richards, headteacher at the Park Schools Federation, where the infant and junior schools attendance rates are 93 per cent and 96 per cent respectively, said: “We have joined this partnership because there is a direct correlation between a child’s attendance and their attainment.
“Our parents are on the whole supportive of this move and most wouldn’t dream of taking their children out of school. Others are unhappy, because they say there is a £600 difference between holidays in term time and during the holidays.
“It’s not right that parents who want a nice holiday are financially penalised for only going away during school holidays, but it’s also not right for parents to penalise their children’s education by removing them from school during term time.”
Christie Fulleylove, manager of Thomas Cook’s Shirebrook branch, said that the affordable school holiday breaks include trips to British destinations such as Mablethorpe and Great Yarmouth, as well as vacations further afield in countries such as Spain.
She added: “Every day I look for the best deals available for the school holiday periods and send them through to Shirebrook Academy, which then sends them to their partner schools and parents.
“There is a perception that people who take holidays in term time pay less, but equally there are still plenty of affordable holiday breaks to be found for dates in school holiday times to make a family break affordable.”