Academy trusts lengthen October half term to tackle coastal schools' absence problems

Two academy trusts have agreed to extend the length of the October half term break in eight of their schools to reduce unauthorised term-time holiday absence.

From this year, academies in Skegness, Lincolnshire, run by Greenwood Academies Trust and David Ross Education Trust will have a two-week autumn break.

Academies are allowed to set their own term dates, and the two trusts say the joint move will help families, many of whom work in the coastal town’s tourism industry, to take holidays with their children.

Rates of unauthorised absence have been growing in recent years following a change in the law in 2013 which tightened restrictions on term-time holidays and a landmark Supreme Court ruling on the subject in 2017.

Data published by the government last March shows councils handed out 260,000 fines for poor attendance in 2017-18, compared to just 149,300 in 2016-17.

The rules on term-time holidays are seen as particularly restrictive for those who work in leisure and tourism industries.

Politicians from areas with big tourism workforces, such as Cornish MP Steve Double, have previously argued for a change in the law to stop parents being fined for taking their children away during term time.

“Every school and community has its own distinctive needs, and this important step will help improve attendance so that Skegness children do not miss out,” said Rowena Hackwood, chief executive of DRET.

Wayne Norrie, who runs Greenwood, added: “As a trust we are committed to supporting the needs of our families and the local community, and are proud to announce new term dates that accommodate parents’ seasonal work patterns and will improve pupils’ attendance and empower them to fulfil their potential.”

The leaders say families of pupils at Beacon Primary Academy, Ingoldmells Academy, Seathorne Primary Academy, Skegness Academy, Skegness Infant Academy, Skegness Junior Academy, Hogsthorpe Primary Academy and Skegness Grammar School will all now be able to “take advantage of more affordable holiday rates during early November when most schools around the country are back in school”.

Lee Roberts, project coordinator for Visit Lincs Coast, said: “The tourism industry is essential to life in Skegness, and we know so many people who work within it end up missing out on their own summer holidays.

“This is an excellent and innovative initiative…to support local families and the tourist trade here and we are very pleased to hear that they will soon have the opportunity to take advantage of an additional holiday outside term time and the usual school holidays which fall during peak tourism season.”