UK parents seeking to enjoy off-season holiday discounts could be behind the increasing truancy in schools. There has been a 10 per cent rise in rates of unauthorised absence.
Almost 70,000 pupils at primary and secondary schools are skipping classes without permission on a typical day, either through truancy or family holidays.
AdvertisementThe statistics, published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, show that truancy rates - either through holidays or dodging lessons - have risen yet again.
The truancy rate - the percentage of school registration sessions missed due to truanting and lateness - rose to 1.1 per cent.
Children skipped almost 3.9 million days of school during the spring term.
The figures show rising numbers are risking penalty fines of £100 to take term-time breaks as the recession hits family finances and the plunging pound inflates the cost of foreign travel.
Parents say they are prepared to accept the fines - which are £50 if paid within 28 days - because the cost is outweighed by the savings that can be made on off-peak holidays.
They are tempted to avoid taking breaks during half-term, Easter and summer school holidays because prices can be double normal rates.
Thus despite the crackdown by ministers on parents who take term-time holidays.
Heads can grant up to 10 days off a year but have been advised to so only in exceptional circumstances, for example to fit in with parental work commitments.
Since 2004, heads have had powers to issue penalty notices to parents who take term-time holidays without the school's consent.
In extreme cases of persistent truancy or refusal to pay fines, parents face jail.
Figures for the spring term 2009 suggest that heads are granting fewer requests - and growing numbers of parents are taking their children away regardless, Laura Clerk said, reporting for Daily Mail.
The government itself seemed to take comfort from the fact that absence overall - including illness and other days off condoned by teachers - was falling.
Schools Minister Vernon Coaker said schools were challenging doubtful excuses given by parents for absence.
'Schools are listening to our calls to query dubious reasons given by parents for absence, and allow fewer children to miss school for holidays,' he said.
'Our message is getting across to schools and parents that every lesson counts for children. We will continue to do all we can to support efforts to drive absence down still further.'
But Liberal Democrat schools spokesman David Laws said: 'These figures are a disgrace. The Government's truancy strategies are not working.
'Ministers have poured hundreds of millions of pounds into reducing truancy over recent years, but this money seems to have been completely wasted.'
He added: 'It is worrying that there has been a rise in the number of children missing school because of unauthorised holidays.
'Parents should not be removing their children from school without permission from their teachers.'
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