It’s important to remember that the DfE stands firmly fixed on its current policy that absence should only be granted in exceptional circumstances.
In fact, so convinced is the DfE that current policy is correct that it is supporting a further appeal by the Isle of Wight LA to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, some councils have begun to change tack. For example, Cornwall has stopped issuing penalty notices, perhaps in acknowledgement of how many workers are employed in the tourist trade and are unable to go away at peak times. Some other authorities are currently reviewing their practice and we could see more joining Cornwall, Derby, Dorset, Oldham and Southwark.
In the meantime, this puts headteachers in a difficult position. Some are starting to take the line indicated by the high court. The court suggested that as Platt’s daughter had a good attendance record her father was not liable for paying absence fines. Others see no reason yet to change their practice.
Your decision how to proceed will be affected by your current overall school attendance data and the proximity of an Ofsted inspection. If you are struggling to reach the national average for attendance and may be visited by inspectors, then you would be unwise to change your approach. You will still be expected to demonstrate rigour in raising attendance levels.
However, throughout this leave of absence debate, a certain level of compromise is needed, I believe. A parent who you know struggles to take their family away during holiday times should be given the opportunity to make their case, particularly if their child has a good attendance record.
Some of the very hard-line decisions that have characterised the e-petitions to Parliament do seem to have been overly harsh. They have set parents and schools on bitter head-to-head confrontations and this seems to have been in no one’s best interests.