Travel broadens attendance gap

Another set of figures hit the streets this week, on pupil attendance, underlining the point by the Freedom of Information Commissioner that there is now more data on schools than ever before - even if people have to do more legwork to locate it. The picture appears remarkably stable, with little real change over the past decade (page three).

The difference this year is that, for the first time, the details of why children are off school are provided - and holidays have been given a particular pasting since it seems that 125,000 pupils were taken out of school for that reason. This is 17 per cent of the pupil population, prompting the Education MInister to issue an educational health warning to them. The fact, however, that the figure is very slightly higher for primary and lowest in S4-S6 suggests that parents are already wary about removing their children from school in secondaries as exams approach - even to cash in on cheap flights.

But, until we know what effect missing school to go on holiday actually has on pupils' attainment, we should keep our counsel. If it remains true that travel broadens the mind, there seems no reason why children should have a narrow experience.

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