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You lounge, they learn

A club that lets parents holiday while their children supposedly study has upset heads

IT SOUNDS like the perfect way to get your child out of school for a bargain break. A holiday club's "education programme" promises to help pupil study while their parents bask in the sunshine.

But the scheme has angered schools, which say it is not a valid alternative to normal lessons.

The British firm Club Las Calas runs a resort in Lanzarote, 70 miles off the African coast, with 147 apartments, four swimming pools and a leisure complex. The club says it "recognises the problem" parents face with paying over-the-odds prices during school holidays, so it believes its education progammes give parents a way round the situation.

In a newsletter, it said: "Our programme is designed to make it easier for schools to grant leave of absence on pupils on the condition that they undertake learning tasks. The kids should not worry - there are no classrooms involved!"

According to the company's chairman, there are no teachers involved either.

Adam Johnson said: "We're not a surrogate school. It would work by teachers setting the children coursework which our staff would then supervise. This could be something on volcanic rock, which is vast in Lanzarote.

"Like it or not, parents do take their children out of school in term-time.

Parents on a limited budget are penalised because the airlines recognise that, with constraints on families, they can charge premium prices.

"We wanted to see if there was something we could do which would help parents offset the days missed at school.

"Of course, we could ease the burden by putting our prices down during school holidays, but why should the airlines make all the money?"

According to the Depart-ment for Education and Skills, children can take a maximum of 10 school days' authorised absence in any school year, in exceptional circumstances.

But a spokesman stresses that it is up to each headteacher to decide on a family's circumstances. It is not an automatic right that parents should expect.

Greg Marsden, head at Lisle Marsden C of E primary in Grimsby, said he was furious when he received the newsletter.

"People who read it might buy into the notion that it makes it OK to take holidays in school time, so I'm very annoyed," he said. "There's no substitute to being in your own class with your own teacher covering the curriculum, and this company is interfering with that."

Mr Marsden said that holiday absences accounted for 75 per cent of all absences at his school.

"This is an issue we've been battling for years and this company isn't making it any easier," he said.

But there is some good news. When a TES reporter posed as a parent to gain flight prices, a Thomsons travel agent - nothing to do with Club Las Calas - told her it was "very naughty" to take her children out of school.

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