Agenda;Briefing;Govenors

15th January 1999 at 00:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Q

Do we have to allow children to take term-time holidays? Our headteacher is getting tough on families who take their children out of school for annual holidays and is normally only allowing it up to Year 9.

Surely this is parents' legal right? After all, it is the only way some families can afford a holiday.

A

It is not a right, though many parents believe it to be. Unless the school gives permission and is satisfied that the holiday (up to a maximum of two weeks) could not be taken at any other time, it must be regarded as unapproved parentally-condoned absence and, as you know, we are all under pressure to reduce these absences, as well as to cut truancy.

Pupils' attainment is thought to be threatened by losing two weeks' school and you cannot be surprised if headteachers pressed to raise standards take a tougher line than they used to.

It's sad that such toughness, like most trials of life, is hardest on the poorest families, yet these are also the children whose lives are most likely to be transformed by a good education.

The problem is exacerbated by the huge differentials in travel agents' prices between school holidays and term time and perhaps that should be looked at by somebody.

The Government is thinking of tightening up on holiday provisions, so it may soon not be up to the school how freely permission is given.

Meanwhile, I think you should discuss the matter with the head and draw up a policy.

Q

We are under "special measures". Our local education authority said that this means governors will get allowances. How will this work?

A

The new School Standards and Framework Act Section 18 (4) will for the first time allow some payment, but only by the Secretary of State for Education to the extra governors he may appoint to a school under special measures.

I see yours is a voluntary-aided school and in these cases the Secretary of State will consult the diocese before making these appointments. He may also make one of his appointees chair in place of the elected chair.

Both appointments and payments are discretionary. The reasoning is that the people with necessary experience and skills may be then able to volunteer, but I am not happy about it. It could be very divisive, especially in a school with such major problems.

The existing governors may well have worked hard and been distressed by happenings which may not have been their fault, and as volunteers their motivation to go on supporting the school needs to be very strong.

Experience is very important, but over the years I have met hundreds of fine governors who would gladly give their experience to a school in difficulties, with no thought of payment.

Questions for Joan Sallis's column should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171 782 3200. E-mail: joansallis@tes1.demon.co.uk

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