The recent explosion in parents being fined for their children failing to attend school has been a bugbear of mine for a while. I can see that taking a 15 year old out of school for two weeks during their final few months of study before GCSEs is not a great idea, and schools who care about exam results should put a certain amount of pressure on parents to keep their kids in school as much as possible.
Then we have this: trying to fine parents £720 for their children failing to attend school:
Before they went away, the couple were warned they each risked a £60 fine for taking their six-year-old son, Keane, and their daughters Sian, 13, and Rhiannan, 15, on the break.Keane is six years old. Precisely what negative impact occurs from him missing six days of school? Missing out on how to spell "squirrel"? Any scheme that imposes exactly the same financial penalty for six year olds and fifteen year olds missing a school day is clearly blissfully unrelated to the impact of the behaviour in question, and is primarily intended as either a political or revenue-raising scheme. Don't try to sell this as "educational".
I went off to read the legislation quoted: section 444 of the Education Act 1996:
(1)If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly [my italics] at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.Ah, "regularly". I assume that the well-paid lawyer drafting this text meant "five days per week during school terms". Except, regularly can mean many different things:
1. Customary, usual, or normal: "the train's regular schedule."If a child attends school every Monday, that's "regular" according to definitions 2, 3, 4, 5. Only definition 1 even arguably applies to a week out school term as opposed to a once-a-week attendance. I don't know who drew up this law, but we should find out and take back their payment. Perhaps we could give the money to this family...
2. Orderly, even, or symmetrical: regular teeth.
3. In conformity with a fixed procedure, principle, or discipline.
4. Well-ordered; methodical: regular habits.
5. Occurring at fixed intervals; periodic: regular payments.
6. a. Occurring with normal or healthy frequency. b. Having bowel movements or menstrual periods with normal or healthy frequency.
7. Not varying; constant.
A sensible policy that aimed to satisfy the tradeoff between the marginal benefits of education and the unarguable benefits of vacation and family together-time would allocate an allowance of X days to each pupil (X maybe rising in inverse proportion to the child's age) that they could take off school with parental permission; only unauthorised absence above this limit would attract fines, and such fines would decrease in earlier stages of schooling. Since the law does not behave this way, one is led to the inevitable conclusion that it does not attempt to benefit the child; rather, it is a mechanism of control for the school and education authority.
(If I were a parent of a child at state primary school, I'd be tempted to send my child to school only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday); when the inevitable letter from school arrived, I'd point out the law in question and the definition of "regular". I wonder what would happen?)