JULY/AUGUST 2014: I am on leave myself for a while but will check emails now and then. Meanwhile the holiday in term-time issue gathers pace, with several high-profile court cases, TV coverage, involvement by MPs and various lobby groups campaigning to reverse the recent change. I personally hope that things will calm down soon. Perhaps the most unreasonable cases will even be withdrawn. Some certainly should be. Many decent parents are feeling a great sense of injustice and I do question why such isolated absences seem to have such a high priority. There must be other more serious cases needing attention.


To be fair to the DfE, this mess is not primarily their fault. Leave has not been 'banned'. Many headteachers seem not to be aware that they still have the discretion to authorise it, if they consider the reason to be 'exceptional'. (This is not a decision they can rely on either Local Authorities or the government to make for them). Some of their judgments do seem bizarre and uncaring. It depends on the circumstances and sometimes leave is entirely appropriate.


Some situations don't merit authorisaton; I'm not in favour of any automatic 'entitlement'. But there's no need to over-react to every single example. Even if absences are not approved, what happens next depends on the local decisions taken in reponse; legal action is not inevitable. Unauthorised absences do not have to result in a fine or a prosecution. The DfE Guidance says they 'could' be dealt with in this way, not that they must. It may be enough just to leave them unauthorised. Everyone seems to be claiming it's someone else's decision or that they have no choice over what happens but that's just not true.


If you're a parent, ask to see a copy of the school's policy and the LA's Code of Conduct and ask what criteria they are each using to decide. They must be 'reasonable'. If you're a school leader and you're not clear about how to make sure you act correctly, may I recommend the training package below as a bit of summer reading!




I am a UK Independent Education Welfare Specialist offering primarily TRAINING RESOURCES BY EMAIL for use in schools.  These regularly updated user-friendly packs have been developed from the many events I have run over the last few years and provide a  cost-effective way for those with a pastoral or leadership role to explore the content at your own pace and then cascade the information to your colleagues.


Once purchased, you can add further information to suit your individual school's circumstances as required. You can also copy the materials as often as you wish within your own school or college, both for individual study and for staff meetings, group presentations and updates using the included PowerPoints.


See 'TRAINING RESOURCES' page for more details of each package and how to order.



Child Protection in Schools 2014: Designated Senior Person/ Safeguarding Lead Audit Pack with 'Train the Trainer' Level 1 INSET presentation and supporting materials


Preventing and Managing Allegations of Abuse about School Staff 2014: 3 self-study Modules and Governor/Staff Training Pack with PowerPoint, handouts etc.


NEW: Attendance and Absence - an Audit, Study and Train Resource to help you manage your school's statutory, strategic and pastoral responsibilities. Ideal for Ofsted preparation and identifying the policies you require.


NEW: Self-study + Portfolio course for school-based attendance workers.  A 4 Unit programme for LAs and other groups/consortia to run and accredit. See 'TRAINING RESOURCES' for details

Looking for advice? Click on 'USEFUL DOCUMENTS' for downloadable documents and Guidance on attendance, child protection and other issues relevant to children's welfare in education or contact me via 'CONTACT AND QUESTIONS'


On 'BEN'S BLOG' the current topics are: 'A SENSIBLE POLICY ON TERM-TIME LEAVE' and 'DON'T TRUST THE DATA!'     


I also deliver small-group seminars for FORUM Training at various venues around the country. Click the link below for the current programme on offer: 

                       TRAINING SEMINARS





Do the new rules actually ban all holidays in term-time? No. So why so much fuss?
I appreciate that Penalty Notice fines are very popular with many schools and local authorites. But they are very unpopular with hundreds of thousands of perfectly law-abiding parents. 20% admit they've lied to avoid censure. It's largely a lottery who gets prosecuted. All this legal action does nothing about those who are deliberately and repeatedly avoiding their responsibility but it is immensely damaging for wider parent/school relationships. In my opinion, it's just not worth it. What do you think?
Holiday article 2014.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [126.2 KB]
Child Employment: Still trying to start a debate on this issue. Is no-one else interested?
Even when a child dies it seems we don't want to think about the fact that children in our society work, and that nearly all of it is illegal. The rules are antiquated and unenforced but who cares? It seems our society is happy to leave this whole area unregulated and just pretend it isn't happening. But what's the proper relationship between education and work in the 21st Century? Surely not one designed almost 100 years ago!
Adobe Acrobat document [114.0 KB]


Refocusing School Attendance'

£7.99 from


There are already many books about school attendance, absence and so-called ‘truancy’, so why yet another one? What makes this book different is that I begin with a radical question: Why does attendance matter? We make so much effort to make sure our current and future citizens  engage, but why should they? Government seems wedded to ever more punitive approaches to try and convince the reluctant, but is that the best way to overcome disaffection and promote more positive involvement by those most at risk of opting out?


My argument is that we have put schools at the centre of our systems, not children. Raising attendance is a key educational and pastoral activity. It's not about ticking the relevant box and publishing the figures. It's about childen and making sure we are meeting their needs. But the pig doesn't get any fatter just because we keep weighing it; the data alone tells us nothing. Indeed, much absence may be condoned or even ignored because there may not be an immediate solution available and thinking about the school's place in the 'league tables' becomes more important. But is that really the point? I don't think so. Time for a change of focus.