SCHOOLS in Oxfordshire need to crack down on parents taking their children on term-time holidays if they want to improve results, it was warned last night.
Teachers in the county let more children off school to go on holidays than their counterparts elsewhere.
Oxford Spires Academy headteacher Sue Croft said she believed it was particularly important given Oxfordshire’s poor performance educationally.
Absence figures from the Department for Education relating to the spring term 2012 showed 25,525 half- day sessions were marked as authorised absence in county primaries for children to go on term-time holiday, and a further 7,251 in secondary schools.
That’s out of 39,890 primary and 30,730 secondary pupils.
Mrs Croft said: “There is very clear research about the correlation between attendance and grades. I think it’s one of the key factors.
“It’s absolutely crucial to success and I think it’s important in all years, not just Year 11 when they have got exams because if a child misses a week, they have a gap in their knowledge.”
She said research suggested missing 17 days in a year meant dropping one GCSE grade.
Authorised term-time holidays amounted to 11.5 per cent of all absence in primaries and 3.2 per cent of secondary absence.
That is above the national average, where agreed family holiday amounts to 7.2 per cent of all primary absence and 2.3 per cent in secondary schools.
Mrs Croft has not authorised a single holiday since the school replaced Oxford School in January 2011.
She said the only circumstances in which she would do so was where parents had a letter from their employer saying it was not possible to take leave during school holidays.
The most recent absence figures from Oxford Spires, from January 2011 to July 2012, show two per cent of sessions missed due to unauthorised absence and 3.6 per cent authorised, compared with two per cent unauthorised and 7.7 per cent authorised at its predecessor school, Oxford School, from March 2010 to December 2010.
The unauthorised absence rate for Oxfordshire for spring 2012 is 0.7 per cent compared with one per cent nationally.
Susie Bagnall, headteacher at St Ebbe’s Primary School, Oxford, said: “We don’t encourage parents to take term-time holidays and we do make it clear that children will miss out in their education.
“All you can do is point out the disadvantages for children, particularly if they miss the very first few days of school or the very last days, where not only are they missing learning but socially they are missing out considerably.”
The Government says absence should be for exceptional reasons but it is down to individual schools to decide when to give holidays the go-ahead.
Taking them away in holiday time is just so expensive
Single mum-of-four Kirsty Rose, is in the process of applying to take her two school-age children, Aiden, six, and Rylie, four, out of Bloxham Primary School for a week next month.
She said: “Taking them away in holiday time is just so expensive, it’s just ridiculous.”
In Aiden's first year she took him on holiday for a week at a Haven Park during term-time at a cost of £150. During the summer holidays it would cost her £750.
Although she is going down the official route, Miss Rose, who lives in Bloxham and is a full-time mother, said even if permission was refused, she would still take her children to Weymouth next month.
She said: “I’m going anyway, it’s booked.”