September 15 2014 Latest news:
Emma Lake, Reporter
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Parents should not be punished for taking their children out of school during term time to learn about their cultural heritage, according to a union chief.
Kash Mallick, Redbridge divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the educational benefits of children visiting their families’ homelands, such as India and Pakistan, was as important as lessons in the classroom.
But he said parents cashing in on cheaper holidays should not be treated with similar leniency.
His claims come as new figures reveal fines for unauthorised absences have quadrupled in eight years.
A Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Recorder found that 1,948 parents have received a School Attendance Penalty Notice during the current academic year.
In 2007 the number of fines dished out by Redbridge Council was just 495.
Parents taking their children out of school face a £60 fine each, per child. If it is not paid within 21 days fines increase to £120.
Mr Mallick said: “Children who go to their own country for two to three weeks is something they cannot do with the school – that type of education is as important and is something they would benefit from. It is wrong for the government to prevent that.”
He added: “People who are indigenous to this country do not have an understanding of how rich and how important the education and learning that goes on when children go abroad to their own country is.”
But Cllr Elaine Norman, Redbridge Council cabinet member for children, said: “I think the fining system has been effective. It’s important that children do not miss school. If they are taking long holidays in term time they miss key stages of the curriculum.”