Marshfield mum helps secure Westminster debate on school absence rules

Gazette Series: Karen Wilkinson (second mum from left) with Marshfield parents protesting against school holiday rules Karen Wilkinson (second mum from left) with Marshfield parents protesting against school holiday rules

A MARSHFIELD mother has helped secure a debate in parliament on changes to the government’s unpopular school holiday rules.

Karen Wilkinson has been co-ordinating other parents in the area since a blanket ban on taking children out of school was introduced at the end of last summer.

Under amendments to the 2006 Education Regulations, parents can be fined for taking their children out of school during term time for holidays or unauthorised absences including for weddings or family events.

Previously, parents were allowed to take their child out of school for up to 10 days a year, subject to permission from the head teacher, and many people made use of the time to benefit from cheaper holiday rates than during the school holidays.

Mrs Wilkinson, who has one child at Marshfield Primary School and two children at Hardenhuish School in Wiltshire, said: “There are a range of different reasons why I am against this.

“For some families trying to afford holidays in school holiday time is just ridiculously expensive and they are priced out. I feel that the government is completely undervaluing the importance of a family holiday and for children to spend valuable time with their families.”

She said abuse of the system, cited by Westminster as the reason for the change in policy, was not down to people taking long holidays in term time but was often more complicated.

“It can be because the child is stressed or being bullied and doesn’t want to go to school,” she said. “It also changes the relationship between the school and parents, especially as schools can still change their term times, which is counter-productive.

“And all this was done without consulting parents.”

Fixed penalty notices have been issued to parents who have ignored the rules and e-petitions have gone viral on social networking sites.

One, on campaign site 38 Degrees, has been signed by more than 203,000 people.

Birmingham Yardley MP John Hemming has now secured a debate in Westminster Hall on Monday, February 24 (4.30pm) in response to the petition.

The discussion will cover travel companies being allowed to dramatically increase prices during the school holidays as well as wider aspects of the change in policy.

Mr Hemming said: "It's a big issue for parents and my concern is that they haven't been heard

"The problem is half-terms all tend to be the same, leading to a very big demand for holidays all at the same time. And reducing the flexibility of people to take their children out of school adds to that."

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