School’s battle with term-time holidays

A SECONDARY school says cheap term-time holidays mean a constant battle with truancy.

Earlsheaton Technology College in Dewsbury is one of the worst offenders in north Kirklees for persistent absences. 8.9 per cent of its pupils had 52 or more half-day absences in the 2010/11 school year, according to secondary school league tables published last month.

But head teacher Paul Levey said the school’s high figure was partially due to parents taking children on holiday in term time.

“The tour companies put costs up during school holidays and that has always been an issue. It’s a continual battle,” he said.

He added that the school had been cracking down on truancy for five years, and was improving, with unauthorised absence figures falling from 2.7 per cent to 2.15 per cent in last year’s results.

Mr Levey said: “What we do is contact the parents if children are away.

“Children return to school and we interview them as to why they were absent and make it a high priority issue.”

Batley Business and Enterprise College also said term-time holidays impact on their unauthorised absence rates.

The college topped the north Kirklees table with a rate of 2.59 per cent, and head teacher Ian Dutton said term-time getaways were often to blame.

He said: “We don’t have a problem with truancy. If parents apply to us for two weeks in term time we refuse to authorise that absence.”

Whitcliffe Mount School in Cleckheaton scored 8.9 per cent in the league tables for persistent absence but said the figures distorted the true picture.

Head teacher John McGee said the school had been praised by Ofsted for its tackling of the issue, but because it only takes children from the age of 13, it cannot be compared like-for-like with other secondary schools, as it does not have the lower year groups that often improve absence figures.

He said: “What tends to happen in high school is attendance is at its best in years seven and eight and tails off a little bit in nine, ten and 11.”

He said he thought the addition of years seven and eight to Whitcliffe Mount in September would improve the school’s figures.

Throughout north Kirklees, more schools are below the national average for unauthorised absences than above.

Unauthorised absences are recorded if a child does not attend school, is on holiday, arrived after the register closed or missed a session for other reasons or without providing an explanation.