Warning over school pupils’ long holidays during term time

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CHILDREN who miss more than six weeks at popular Sheffield schools risk losing their place, parents are being warned.

The alert is one of several tactics being used by education officers as part of a campaign to discourage families from ethnic communities from taking long holidays during term time to visit family members overseas.

“We think if we can help parents to understand the impact of frequent, long, avoidable absence, that will make a major difference,” said children’s services director Dr Sonia Sharp.

“A once-in-a-lifetime trip to your homeland for four weeks can be extraordinarily beneficial – especially if it’s linked in with schools and distance learning packages.

“But there’s a cost in terms of the child’s future educational outcomes if that’s happening regularly.”

Research has shown that children who are regularly taken out of school make slower progress than their classmates.

There is a cost to the school too with expensive intervention strategies needed to try and help such children to catch up.

Other considerations include potential withdrawal of child benefit if the family is out of the country for any length of time – and not being able to return to a former school where there are familiar teachers, routines and friends.

Nearly 400 pupils took a full month or more off in Sheffield during 2009-10.