The hon. Lady makes a good point. One problem with the policy is that it is being applied inconsistently by different local authorities. Since I stuck my head above the parapet on the issue, hundreds of parents have contacted me with many different stories about how the policy is being applied. The case mentioned by the hon. Lady is a good example of inconsistency, as three parents have been fined for the same child. Greater clarity is needed. I agree that the answer is to give discretion back to headteachers and let them make the decision.
Many headteachers up and down the country are asking for their discretion back because they understand the tensions that the policy causes between schools and families. One of the most important things in a child’s education is that their parents are engaged with their education, which means having a good positive relationship with the school. That is far more important than what school a child attends or even how many days they are at school. If there is a positive, co-operative relationship between the parents and the school, the child will usually do well at school. Where tension is created, the relationship is damaged, which has to be detrimental to the child’s education.