every parent knows that after their health, happiness and wellbeing there is nothing more important than ensuring our children get the best possible education available to them.
So it will come as a shock to the city to learn that over the last three years Leeds’ education chiefs have issued 8,600 fines to mums and dads as punishment for taking their children out of school on holidays.
The question on so many levels has to be, why? Why are parents hooking youngsters from the classroom mid-term, when they know the consequence will inevitably be that their child will fall behind on their work? Some perhaps even permanently.
Well, we all know that a significant part of the problem is because holiday companies ramp up their prices when demand is high, often putting a week away out of reach for an average family during school holiday time. The savings can be into the thousands of pounds if a family of four, say, is looking to spend two weeks abroad.
So why are Local Education Authorities hitting thousands of financially stretched families with fines if they know that many are well-meaning people who are simply trying to avoid being ripped off and enjoy family time?
The logic is seemingly sound: if every child attends every day of every term in the classroom then they have a better chance of succeeding academically.
Teachers can ill-afford to carve out time to loop back around for the odd one or two children who have missed out because they’ve taken an unauthorised holiday. Equally, why should the children and parents committed to 100 per cent attendance suffer because their teacher is having their precious time eaten up by having to catch up the holidaymakers with that which they’ve missed?
But surely there is a better way of deciding who should and shouldn’t be fined, rather than a binary system of punishment that is blindly followed, come what may?
Make no mistake, this newspaper will support any council in dealing robustly with serial truants and lackadaisical school attendees but there has to be some scope for those who know the children and families of Leeds most intimately – the teachers – to make decisions that are taken in the best interests of children and parents, not because a rule book says so.