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Statement on Attendance of Pupils Policy by Minister for Education 19 September 2008

The policy change as notified this term is being introduced for sound educational reasons:

- 15,000 school days lost last year.

- One secondary school in January this year had 10% authorised leave of absence.

- Research by DCSF in England clearly shows that high achievement correlates with high levels of attendance.

- Our standards are very good but I believe they could be even better.

- I am sure parents will understand this and the value of good attendance at school.

We realise, however, that people have been ‘caught on the hop’ by the changed arrangements and may have holidays planned but have not yet sought authorisation from the school.

Therefore, I have reviewed the policy and support it fully. However, having listened to parents’ concerns, the Department is going to alter the timing of its introduction:

For the current school year 2008/2009 the policy change is postponed and parents can continue to apply for leave of absence in the way they have been used to. However, we do expect that parents will take into account the spirit of the policy and try to reduce their applications.

For 2009/2010, we will introduce the policy changes which will limit leave of absence to: 1. Where times spent together is important to the well-being and cohesion of the family, following serious or terminal illness, bereavement or other traumatic events; 2. Where a parent’s employment is of such a nature that family holidays cannot be accommodated within school holiday periods (e.g. armed services or emergency services); 3. The off-Island wedding of a member of the immediate family.

In addition, a fourth criterion will be introduced for that year only (2009/2010) which will leave the door open to parents to advance other exceptional circumstances for consideration by the Department. We hope that this phased and pragmatic approach will give parents time to adjust their holiday plans in light of these changes for the benefit of the children.

We will, of course, be continuing to monitor attendance at school very closely and, in particular, we hope to see the number of applications for holidays in term-time reduce.

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