https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2016/06/19/responses-to-sunday-times/

Responses to the Sunday Times: 19 June 2016

Girl writing

Today, 19 June, the Sunday Times has published two misleading stories, one on term time holidays and another on gender identity in single-sex independent schools. 

Term time holidays

Today the Sunday Times reports that Surrey County Council has hired a barrister in a term time holiday court case involving a mother who refused to pay a £60 fine. The piece links this to the case of Jon Platt, a father who won a High Court case over taking his daughter out of school during term time.

We are, however, absolutely clear that children’s attendance in school is non-negotiable, and that's why the Department is supporting the Isle of Wight Council’s legal challenge against this ruling. 

The evidence is very clear that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chance of gaining good GCSEs, and also has an impact on other children. 

To put this in context, an attendance record of 90% over the course of an academic year is equivalent to 19 school days – almost a month - missed from school. Over the course of a child’s school career that amounts to a whole year of their education being lost.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

We are clear - children should not be taken out of school during term except in exceptional circumstances. There should be no confusion on this point. We know the recent High Court judgement has created some uncertainty for parents, which is why it is essential that the ruling is clarified through the appeal.

 

The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chance of gaining good GCSEs which has a lasting effect on their life chances. Unauthorised absence during term time doesn't just have an impact on the child’s education, but also on teachers and other children.

 

While family holidays are enriching experiences, the school year is designed to give families the opportunity for these breaks without having to disrupt their children’s education.

On Thursday 19 May the Schools Minister gave an Oral Statement in the House about the Government’s rules around term time holidays.

Rainbow flag painted over old white brick wall

Gender identity

Today, in a piece on gender identity in single-sex independent schools, the Sunday Times incorrectly reports that the Education Secretary has brought in new equalities legislation on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.

This is not true – no new legislation of this sort has been introduced. Instead our guidance is clear that all schools must ensure that transgender pupils are not singled out.

Schools should be inclusive environments and we remain committed to ensuring that every child is fully supported to achieve their full potential. We have one of the world’s strongest legislative frameworks in place to prevent and tackle discrimination.

A Government spokesperson said:

This story is untrue – no new legislation of this sort has been introduced. Instead all schools have a duty to tackle discrimination of any sort, including ensuring that transgender pupils are not singled out, which we have made absolutely clear in our guidance to schools.

Government guidance is clear that schools must tackle discrimination of any sort.