What is reasonable? Taking children out of school for holidays.

The latest news on this has caused much debate, and we expect more at our Ward Focus meeting on the 31st.

Here are Professor John Howson’s thoughts on this. John is a Lib Dem County Councillor in North Oxford, as well as an expert on education.

Until we see the full judgement in the recent case we won’t know what the judges in the High Court were thinking when they seemed to deemed it ‘reasonable’ for a parent to be able to take a child on holiday for a week during school term-time.

It is worth recalling that the overarching responsibility of parents is to see that their children receive an education when they are of compulsory school-age (there is a grey area for young people between the ages of 16-18 that will need clarification at some point.)

For young people between 5-16 the law says:

Duty of parents to secure education of children of compulsory school age.

The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable—

(a)to his age, ability and aptitude, and

(b)to any special educational needs he may have,

either by regular attendance at school or otherwise

The issue turns on the definition of ‘regular attendance.’ If the parent, as most do, hands over the responsibility to the State, what is the nature of the contract between the parent and the State?  The State agrees to provide the child with 190 days of schooling per year. It is accepted that children may be off sick and there may be other reasons for a child not to be present, but these will require ‘leave’ to be absent.

In the 1990s two things happened, Ofsted started reporting regularly on attendance levels at schools and the State wanted to drive up standards of education that were thought to be falling. As a result, the law was tightened to ensure regular attendance, with two defences; ‘sickness or unavoidable cause’ or ’with leave’. Historically, schools could grant up to 10 days leave, but that right was removed over time.

The government explained the basis for this change in relation to family holidays in the background to the secondary legislation making the change.

 The 2006 Regulations refer to parents applying for family holiday in “special circumstances” and to schools having discretion to grant up to ten school days of holiday per year. Many parents and some schools have interpreted this law as an automatic entitlement to an annual two-week term time holiday. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 amend the 2006 Regulations to clarify that leave of absence during term time shall not be granted unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

They further explained that;

For pupils to benefit from education and achieve their full potential they must attend school regularly. School attendance data from 2010/11 showed that 90 per cent of pupils with an absence rate of less than 4 per cent achieved 5 or more A*- C grades at GCSE or equivalent. In primary schools, 4 out of 5 pupils with an absence rate of less than 4 per cent achieved level 4 or above in both English and mathematics.

As Oxfordshire County Council’s document on the subject for parents notes;

90% attendance means that your child is absent from lessons for the equivalent of one half day per week.

So how draconian should the State be? Personally, I think in the first year of schooling  when routines are being set and key topics may be being learnt for the first time every effort should be made to attend and taking time out may not be helpful either for the child or their classmates if it disrupts the teaching. As a rule of thumb after that I think where pupils are rarely or never off sick, the guidelines in the old 10-day rule probably provided a sensible rule of thumb for head teachers. After all, some parents cannot take holidays during school holiday period because of the nature of their jobs. However, if a child has missed a lot of time through sickness, taking time off turning term-time that year for a holiday isn’t a good idea and I would expect a head teacher to refuse ‘leave’.

Essentially, the legislation should encourage parents to make the most of the education on offer for their children without seriously affecting either their education or that of their classmates.

My parents only ever took me out of school for one week at the start of my third year in junior school and I never really understood the work on fractions that was introduced during that week. Had it been the last week of the summer term it might have been a different matter.

However, what is clear is that major changes to legislation really ought to be part of primary legislation and not created by secondary legislation and Ministerial fiat. Had that been the case here, Parliament could have discussed in committee what it meant by the phrase ‘attend school regularly’ and the acceptable reasons not to do so.

Perhaps, as a result of this parent’s action it will now have a chance to do so. They might also ask whether if the State isn’t able to fulfil its part of the contract it should make up the missing days? Lord Denning did discuss this in Meade v Haringey in 1979 at the end of the Winter of Discontent, but it never came to trial and a decision.

Stansfeld – let’s save it!

Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre on Quarry Road is owned by Birmingham City Council which is looking to make savings on the running costs of its outdoor centres.  But the facility is used by many pupils from Oxfordshire including Quarry Nursery and Windmill Schools.

They enjoy learning about nature and the environment in the 17 acres of private grounds by the Shotover Country Park, situated on the outskirts of Oxford.
As well as providing desperately needed access to a unique learning opportunity the centre also offers  residential courses to all schools  and groups for up to 64 children.

The landscape at the site results from the quarrying of limestone used to build many of Oxford’s colleges, churches and civic buildings.  It now houses a variety of habitats including limestone grassland, ash and hazel woodland, dense hawthorn scrub, ponds and wetland.

Headington County Councillor Roz Smith says:

If you would like to help support my campaign to save the centre please sign my petition and it will help bolster my argument when I go and address Birmingham City Council about the proposals.

 

Outdoor Education Centre faces closure

Stansfeld Outdoor Education Centre on Quarry Road is an outstanding resource right on our doorstep.  Cllr Roz Smith believes we should do everything we can to preserve it so that our local children can learn about the environment.
Earlier this year Roz became aware that Birmingham City Council was considering making savings by closing their outdoor education centres.  As soon as the consultation opened Roz alerted local residents and started a petition to save the centre; if you would like to help support her campaign please contact Roz or fill in the petition on the latest Focus leaflet that is being distributed in Quarry now.
Roz says,
I am concerned that Birmingham council has opened their consultation just as the Christmas celebration are starting and many people are concentrating on families and friends and many will be away on holiday.  I will be taking a petition to Birmingham City Council and the more local support we can demonstrate the better.
If you would like to sign the petition to save Stansfeld, please contact:
County Cllr Roz Smith

Liberal Democrat Councillor for the new Headington & Quarry County Division
& a Parish Cllr for Risinghurst & Sandhills
m. 07584 257 156
home tel. 01865 750 731
12 Weyland Road, Headington Quarry, Oxford

The City Deal bid – what’s it all about?

Please click here to find out!

A report on the city deal bid will be discussed at a meeting of the City Executive Board next week. Oxford has submitted an expression of interest in bidding for government funding which focused on transformational growth through stimulating the local knowledge economy. The combination of the two world class universities and ‘Big Science’ in the Science Vale are central to the bid.

The City Deal Bid Team comprises representatives from the six local authorities, the Local Enterprise Partnership, University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities and representatives of Science and Research organisations at Harwell and Culham has been overseeing the development of the bid. The County Council has chaired the Bid Team and been leading on co-ordination with support provided by the City Council.

This report sets out an ‘ambition’ statement which form the basis for discussions with partners and Government civil servants advising the Bid Team and will continue through to submission of the final Negotiation Document in October 2013.

Pupil premium boost for Headington schools

As the new school year begins, pupils at Windmill School will benefit from an extra £54,000 on top of the school budget thanks to the Liberal Democrat Pupil Premium. The figures for 2013/14 have just been announced and show an increase of over £17,000 at Windmill School from the 2012/13 pupil premium of £36,757

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister, David Laws said:

Liberal Democrats are building a strong economy and a fairer society where everyone can reach their potential.

At the heart of that is education.

The Pupil Premium helps to provide extra support for the children who need it the most.

Helping the most disadvantaged children helps every child. Fewer children falling behind means less disruption in class and a better education for everyone.

This will allow all our children to get the best possible start in life.

News for other Headington Schools: 2013/14 figures

St Joseph’s Catholic Primary £19,800 (up from £16821 last year)

Sandhills Community Primary £62,100 (up from 47,971 last year)

Wood Farm Primary £128,100 (up from £89,089 last year)

St Andrew’s C of E Primary £26,100 (up from £11837 last year)

Cheney School will receive £370,200 in pupil premium this year.

 

 

Extra funding for free child care

The Government has announced additional funding to provide free childcare to two-year olds across England including funding for 1,148 children in Oxfordshire in 2013 with funding for 2,300 in 2014.

This is part of a drive by government that from today will see 130,000 two-year olds from the poorest homes across England be eligible for 15 hours of free childcare a week with a nursery or childminder that will help with their early education.

The Government is investing more than £500 million into childcare this year and £100 million through local authorities to create new places to ensure those children eligible right now can benefit from these places.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“From today, a parent on a low income with a two year old in the family will see that child qualify for 15 hours a week of free early years’ education.

“These funded childcare places are focused on helping the families that need them the most.”

Next year the Government will be investing £760m to help an additional 130,000 two-year-olds in families on less than £16,190 a year and who receive working tax credits.

Commenting Cllr John Howson Lib Dem spokesperson on Oxfordshire County Council said:

“This is a welcome announcement for families in Oxfordshire where more than 1,100 children will benefit this year.”

“Early education helps promote a child’s physical, emotional and social development.

“This extra support for low income families is a real Liberal Democrat achievement.”

Pupil Premium for primary schools – what it means for Oxfordshire

Liberal Democrat Leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced the biggest ever rise in the pupil premium for primary schools to help ensure that more pupils are able to achieve higher standards

The Pupil Premium provides schools with extra money to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will help whole classes move forward faster together.

It will be increased to £1,300 per eligible primary school pupil in 2014/15, up from £900 per child this year. That’s likely to be almost an extra £1 million for primary schools in the Oxford East constituency that covers the most deprived part of the city. (Figures for other Oxfordshire constituencies are shown in the notes)

Schools will be able to spend this money in ways that they feel helps their pupils best. Evidence shows some schools use it to hire extra staff, reading and maths classes for children who need an extra hand, or provide appropriate other facilities.

Commenting, Oxfordshire Lib Dem County Cllr John Howson said:

“All the evidence shows that if your child starts behind in secondary school, they stay behind. That is unacceptable.

“As part of the Liberal Democrats’ aim to build a fairer society, the Coalition Government is putting extra money into primary schools to help teachers support disadvantaged children.

“This boost in the Pupil Premium will help ensure we give those children a better education, so they will have a better start in life.” Cllr Howson urged the Oxfordshire School Forum to ensure that schools spent the money and didn’t just add it to their already growing bank balances. This cash is for spending not for hoarding”

Commenting further, Nick Clegg said:

“I am delighted to announce a significant increase in the Pupil Premium at primary level.

“This increase in money for every eligible primary school child will help ensure that all pupils are ready to reach their full potential in secondary school.

“This will allow all our children to get the best possible start in life.”

Windmill School expansion – consultation starts

A Statutory Notice has been published relating to the proposal to expand Windmill Primary School in Oxford to become 3 form entry with an Admission Number of 90.

The current capacity of the school is 510 and the proposed capacity will be 630. The current number of pupils registered at the school is 476. The current admission number for the school is 60 and the proposed admission number will be 90.

All the background papers and information are available here including catchment area maps.

There is an online form people can use when sending in comments. Online forms don’t always satisfy everyone’s needs, and there are other ways by which you can comment. you may email your response to:

WindmillStat2013-manager@myconsultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk

or respond in writing to:
Diane Cameron, School Organisation & Planning, County Hall, Oxfordshire County Council, FREEPOST.

It’s really important that you have your say – do please send in comments even if you already made them at public meetings so that they can be recorded

The consultation ends at midnight on 6 February 2013

Headington schools get a cash boost from Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government have given schools in Headington an early Christmas present.

The cash is an increase in the Pupil Premium funding, which targets extra money to schools depending on the number of children from disadvantaged backgrounds they have.

The Pupil Premium is a major Liberal Democrat priority that is being delivered by the Coalition Government.

Schools in our area will be awarded extra funding for 2013/14 as follows:

St Andrew’s CE primary gets £47,700 more
Windmill School gets £53,100 more
Bayards Hill gets £187,200  extra
New Marston gets £58,500 extra
Cheney gets an extra £365,400
Sandhills Primary gets £69,300 more

Liberal Democrat Schools Minister, David Laws said:

“We are already seeing across the country how the Pupil Premium is making a difference to children’s lives. Extra tuition, better IT resources and closer work with parents are all examples of how the Pupil Premium is being used to support the most disadvantaged pupils and benefit all their classmates too.

“That’s why I’m so pleased that, next year, we’ll be extending the Pupil Premium to another half a million children, and increasing the money that schools get to £900 per pupil

“This means that, as a result of Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government, more children will get a better start in life.”

Education’s getting better – City schools still have a long way to go

Attainment among Oxfordshire children at Key Stage One (5-7 year olds) has improved, statistics released by Government have shown.

The Oxford city statistics

Schools purely within the city of Oxford have also made some improvements at Key Stage One Level 2+. However, the city still lies close to the bottom of national league tables.

  • In reading, Oxford had been 2nd from the bottom with 78 per cent reaching the required standards. In 2012 this rose to 83 per cent and a ranking of 12th from bottom.
  • In writing, Oxford had been bottom of the national league tables in 2011 with 72 per cent reaching the required standards. In 2012 this has risen to 77 per cent with Oxford 5th from bottom.       
  • In Maths, Oxford was 4th from bottom of the national league table in 2011 with 86 per cent reaching the required standards. In 2012 the figure was also 86 per cent but Oxford had risen to 5th from bottom.

How is assessment conducted? Key Stage One assessment is conducted via teacher assessment within schools. Key Stage Two (7-11 year olds) assessment is conducted via tests that are marked external to schools. Key State Two results were announced earlier in September and showed big improvements on 2011 figures.