YP Comment: Truancy and terms of debate

Headteachers should decide whether term-time absences count as truancy or not.Headteachers should decide whether term-time absences count as truancy or not.
Headteachers should decide whether term-time absences count as truancy or not.
AHEAD of the new academic year, the issue of term-time holidays will continue to cause consternation '“ not least after campaigning Isle of Wight parent Jon Platt won a landmark court case after he refused to pay a fine levied when he took his daughter out of lessons for a family trip to Florida.

The ramifications continue to reverberate – North Yorkshire County Council has now suspended the imposition of fines in the vast majority of cases while LEAs in Sheffield, Doncaster and Kirklees appear to be adopting a more lenient approach because they appreciate that some families cannot afford inflated holiday prices.

That said, it should be left to the discretion of individual schools – rather than point-scoring politicians – whether parents are penalised or not. Unlike meddling Ministers, it is headteachers who know the circumstances of each child best of all and whether the intended absence is legitimate or not – some family holidays, for example, can be very educational if they include visits to museums.

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After all, there is a world of difference between occasional absences from lessons – especially if the reasons have been discussed in advance between teachers and parents – and those serial truants who regard school as an optional extra. As North Yorkshire education bosses say, they will not hesitate to take legal action if a child starts missing more than 10 per cent of lessons.

And this is the key point. If LEAs and schools had been more effective in the past in clamping down on truancy at the outset, and if Ministers had fulfilled their side of the bargain by taking concerted action against those corporate travel giants who ramp up their costs during school holidays, hardworking parents like Mr Platt would not be effectively criminalised for wanting to spend some precious time with their offspring.

BHS – British Homes Scandal

THE contrast could not be greater – loyal BHS staff showing great dignity as they face an uncertain future following the closure of the last stores over the weekend and the arrogance of (Sir) Philip Green, the disgraced former owner of the high street institution, as calls grow for him to be stripped of his knighthood.

After his, frankly, contemptuous appearance before a Parliamentary committee when he was appalled that MPs had the temerity to ask probing questions about the sale of BHS for a pound to serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell, (Sir) Philip suggests that he might be willing to underwrite part of the former store’s £571m pension deficit if official inquiries into his business empire are called off.

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How cavalier can you get? The retail tycoon clearly does not understand the growing tide of public anger after spending much of the summer in the Mediterranean aboard his £100m luxury superyacht Lionheart, a floating ‘gin palace’ which is a defining symbol of his opulence.

It’s also not for him to call the shots. The fact of the matter is that there is a massive ‘black hole’ in the BHS pension fund, not least because (Sir) Philip awarded himself £400m in dividends from the shop chain during his 15-year tenureship, and this shortfall needs to be paid back for the sake of the 22,000 members in danger of being shortchanged by this corporate largesse.

They have every right to be recompensed in full – and their interests must take precedence over (Sir) Philip’s face-saving exercise. If he wants to lose the sobriquet “the unacceptable face of capitalism”, he should show some humility and start facing up to his responsibilities.

Hull of a success

AT LAST. Congratulations are due to Hull FC for finally ending the club’s Wembley curse with a heroic come-from-behind victory over Warrington Wolves in one of the great renewals of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final.

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The first time that the Airlie Birds have won at the sport’s showpiece venue in nine attempts, the team’s resilience after trailing 10-0 with just 13 minutes exemplified the new confidence, and swagger, in Hull as it prepares to become UK City of Culture.

Yet it is sporting success which is helping to drive the revival of this proud port city. Both Hull FC and Hull KR are formidable forces in rugby league while it took an injury-time winner by Manchester United’s superstars to beat Hull City’s threadbare squad of footballers.

In many respects, these successes on and off the pitch can be traced back to the enlightened decision in the early part of this century to build the KCOM Stadium. Without it, Hull would be all the poorer.