[Matter which the Chairman has decided is urgent for the reason being in order for the Committee to consider the report so that the Counci's School Attendance Policy can take effect from September, 2016]
Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE: 18 JULY 2016
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 11 JULY 2016
C3239 REVISED SCHOOL ATTENDANCE POLICY (RE) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – LEARNING AND CULTURE) –
Approval was sought for changes to the School Attendance Policy to take effect from September 2016.
In December the Minister for Education and Skills wrote to all the Local Authorities in Wales reminding them of their responsibilities in relation to Pupil Registration (Wales) Regulations 2010 and the Education (Penalty Notice) (Wales) Regulations 2013.
The Minister was concerned that some Local Authority guidance indicated that head teachers should not exercise their discretion and should instead refuse all requests for term time absence as a matter of course regardless of the particular circumstances leading to such a request. This is contrary to the Regulations which allows a margin of discretion for the school in such matters.
In the Vale of Glamorgan model policy that was recommended to schools, Governing Bodies were advised that they should not authorise any holiday requests during term time unless there were exceptional and extenuating circumstances. It was suggested that these should normally be limited to family holiday requests from parents employed by the Ministry of Defence and family requests for holidays due to religious beliefs.
The current model policy had been adopted by the majority of schools and since this time attendance rates had increased and in 2014/15 secondary attendance was ranked the highest in Wales. However, in light of the ministerial intervention, the advice to schools now needed to be reviewed and updated.
In the reviewed and updated policy (Vale of Glamorgan Revised School Attendance Policy 2016 – attached at Appendix A to the report) the Vale of Glamorgan Council would now advise all Governing Bodies that parents still needed to request permission from the headteacher to take their children on holiday during term time and that this permission might be granted in accordance with the arrangements that had been agreed by the Governing Body.
The policy would also advise Governing Bodies not to authorise any holiday requests of more than 10 days in an academic year during term time, except where there were exceptional and extenuating circumstances. It was suggested that the parent must make a strong case for taking a child away for more than two weeks a year and the following factors should be considered when assessing requests:
• Time of the proposed trip;
• length and purpose of the holiday;
• duration of the holiday and its impact on continuity of learning;
• circumstances of the family and parents’ wishes;
• overall attendance pattern of the child;
The updated advice advised that schools should carefully explore with parents why such a leave of absence was necessary.
If the headteacher considered there were exceptional circumstances, this could result in the school agreeing with the request and authorising the absence accordingly.
This meant that holiday requests of more than 10 days during term time would not be authorised by the school unless there was agreement between the school and the parent/carer.
At the meeting, the Director of Learning and Skills noted that there had been significant publicity in national media regarding Fixed Penalty Notices for school absences, however she confirmed that there would be no change to the Council’s Fixed Term Penalty Notice policy.
This was a matter for Executive decision
Cabinet, having considered the report and all the issues and implications contained therein
(1) T H A T the proposed changes to the School Attendance Policy attached at Appendix A to the report be approved for adoption by school governing bodies.
(2) T H A T the revised School Attendance Policy be referred to the Scrutiny Committee Lifelong Learning and Culture for consideration.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To ensure that schools in the Vale of Glamorgan were fully compliant with the Pupil Registration (Wales) Regulations 2010 and the Education (Penalty Notice) (Wales) Regulations 2013.
(2) The former Scrutiny Committee Lifelong Learning had paid very close attention to school attendance policy and performance and would be required to consider the revised policy before its final adoption.
Attached as Appendix – Report to Cabinet – 11 JULY 2016