Headlines: November 16th, 2005

Parents who ensure their children don’t play truant will be able to get discounts and free places on holidays under an initiative designed to tackle unauthorised absence from schools. The scheme, Every Lesson Counts, has been developed by the Department for Education and Skills, in partnership with the travel and tourism industry.At the same time the Government has confirmed it is expanding the ‘Fast Track to Attendance’ programme to target more than 10,000 serial truants who account for 20 per cent of all cases of truancy across the country. Their parents will face penalty notices or prosecution unless their attendance improves. The ‘Fast Track to Attendance’ drive initially targeted 8,000 pupils,

The Every Lesson Counts campaign, developed with the Association of British Travel Agents, the Federation of Tour Operators and VisitBritain, will highlight incentives available to families who book their breaks early for the school holiday periods, rather than opting for a trip during term-time which could disrupt their children’s education. It will mean families can get discounts and free child places on trips during the school holidays. The scheme will also underline the importance of regular school attendance, encouraging parents to avoid taking children out of school by, for example, planning ahead to book routine appointments outside school hours.

The Department for Education and Skills says term-time holidays are estimated to account for up to one in six of all absences and many schools are refusing permission for them in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Schools are also becoming less tolerant where term-time holidays are taken without permission, making sure that they are recorded as unauthorised, which can trigger sanctions such as penalty notice fines.

Alongside Fast Track to Attendance, national truancy sweeps will be run until the end of this month, involving teams of police and education welfare officers patrolling streets and challenging young people not in school to provide an authorised reason for their absence. Truants will be returned to their schools immediately or taken to an agreed place of safety.