Ask a teacher

7th September 2007 at 01:00
Many pupils at my school are from ethnic minorities and take extended holidays to visit their countries of origin. We encourage parents to do this in the school holidays, but many still don't. Visiting family is important, but this profoundly affects their education. What should I do?

Lynn, Stoke-on-Trent

A Visiting countries of origin is important for pupils from ethnic minority backgrounds as it gives them a sense of identity and helps them understand their heritage. Parents should be permitted to take one term-time trip during their child's school career, and told that all other trips should take place in holiday time. Be firm, as it is their child's learning at stake. Helen, London

A Though this is important, don't beat yourself up over it. It shouldn't be left to the teacher to deal with but should be a whole-school policy. Attendance rates are a key issue with Ofsted, and, as many schools have found, can make a big difference in your inspection. You should start to network (perhaps via advisers) to find out which schools with a similar catchment to your own have really cracked this one. You are not alone. John, Worthing

A It must be frustrating to watch your pupils be disadvantaged in this way. Help the parents understand that they are damaging their children's education. Most Asian parents highly value education and usually have high educational aspirations for their families. Try locking into this attitude; I'm sure you will have some success. Keith, Brighton

A Given the achievement rates of children from the Asian community, there is some reassurance that the effects are not too catastrophic. But that is not an argument for ignoring the issue. So how can you make the best of the situation? You are already in dialogue with the parents but, hitherto, it sounds as though you have focussed on the negatives of these extended trips. Perhaps you need to work with the parents a bit more? Get them on board, explore ways of keeping in touch while the families are away: the internet is not unknown in Asia Sue, East Grinstead

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