More families in Calderdale are taking their children on holiday during term time, many without permission, a new report has revealed.
Primary and secondary school pupil absences and exclusions – and statistics on families electing to educate their children at home – were being scrutinised by councillors who commented on aspects of a report presented to them.
The report by Calderdale Council officers to Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Board revealed that term time holiday was a more frequent occurrence in the borough than nationally and although holiday which had been approved by the authorities was declining, unauthorised holiday was increasing at a faster rate than nationally.
In terms of absence from school, this was lower than national and regional comparisons in Calderdale at both levels, and the borough also had lower numbers of persistent absentees.
And is the last three reporting years there was less illness in Calderdale schools than nationally.
Primary school age exclusions were in line with national figures but were rising, but at secondary level were substantially lower in number than the rest of the Yorkshire while being broadly on a par with figures nationally.
Both primary and secondary age permanent exclusions were in line with national figures – but the proportion of pupils permanently excluded for “persistent disruptive behaviour” were, at 63 per cent, over a third as much again as the national rate (35 per cent).
Elective Home Education (EHE) has been rising in Calderdale since 2012-13, by more than 400 per cent since that year, more boys than girls, and more in the secondary education than primary.
Parental choice was the largest cited reason for parents electing to home educate their children, with dissatisfaction with mainstream education the next most significant reason.
Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lighcliffe) queried the figure on permanent exclusions for “persistent disruptive behaviour” when compared to the national rate. “It can’t be right,” he said.
The council’s Assistant Director for Learning Services, Steve Evans, said it was “statistically weird” and an anomaly which might include different types of transgression being reported under the heading.
Coun Raistrick said problems could not be tackled if the data was wrong and Coun Carol Machell (Lab, Todmorden) said schools had to submit data on the same basis.
Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) said: “At the end of the day what we need to be doing is managing disruptive behaviour before it gets to exclusion.
“What I would like to see is coming up with some solutions when headteachers get together. We need to get a strategy to alleviate this problem.”
Coun Sarah Courtney (Lab, Calder) asked questions about the need for better funding.
Underlying causes of disruptive behaviour could be tackled by proper early intervention, she said – for example if a pupil was dyslexic becoming angry if they could not cope with a lesson – and she asked what pastoral and class support was available.
“This all requires money and staff and we haven’t got any,” she said.
Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said figures showing nine pupils were being home educated by their parents because of issues of bullying not being addressed in schools.
Coun Anne Collins (Lab, Ovenden) said lack of cash meant some problems were not being tackled and she was tired of teachers and staff being attacked unfairly for pupils failing.