Outrage as Bognor family fined

A BOGNOR Regis councillor has slammed a nationwide policy to stop families holidaying during term-time after a complaint from a constituent.

The criticism from Arun district and Bognor Regis town councillor Jeanette Warr was sparked after a parent whose child attends Felpham Community College received a fixed penalty notice after taking a mid-term break.

Cllr Mrs Warr said: “I want to raise awareness to any school that is putting this into practice.

“For some parents this is the only time they can possibly go out of season because of the cost and they are fined which to me is disgusting. They just cannot go taking money from parents.”

She said she sympathised with schools, but the policy was too inflexible.

“I can understand schools do not want the term interrupted by children going on vacation, but there are situations sometimes that cannot be helped.

“There are times when a family cannot afford to go during the summer holidays and are penalised for that,” added Cllr Mrs Warr.

The Felpham Way school’s deputy headteacher, Marion Harrington, defended the school’s stance, saying it is acting in line with local authority guidance.

She said: “We have a clear attendance policy that is communicated to all parents when their children join us.

“Good attendance underpins academic achievement and parents are expected to make every effort to ensure that their children attend school every day, on time.

“Holidays during term time are actively discouraged and are not authorised in Years 10 and 11 because of the impact on examination preparation.

“Parents are fully aware of this policy and it has been agreed by the governing body. This policy is in line with that of other local schools and is regarded by the local authority as good practice.”

The code of conduct enables local authorities, senior staff in schools and police officers to issue fixed penalty notices to the parents of children whose level of attendance is unacceptable; those breaking it should expect a fine of £60 per child.

The notices are issued by the Education Welfare Service and no money goes to the school concerned. The measure was introduced by the government after it recognised that children are missing too much school.

A West Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “The importance of regular attendance at school cannot be over- emphasised, and, as the code of conduct makes clear, in West Sussex penalty notices may be used as one measure to address absence from school. It will not be the only measure and will be used only when it is considered to be an appropriate option, included as one of a range of strategies to support individual children.”