School Penalty Fines and Authorised Absence — [Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:57 pm on 11th July 2016.

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Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon 4:57 pm, 11th July 2016

I will discuss the specifics of the petition in a moment, but as I said in my opening remarks, it is not just parents but headteachers who are contacting us to express concerns about the status quo.

It is important to point out that nobody here, including my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay, is arguing that education should not be compulsory. Of course it should. Nobody is arguing, either, that parents should have an automatic right to decide that they want to take their children out of school for a set number of days a year.

That goes exactly to the point made by Lilian Greenwood. Like my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay, I do not agree with the headline of the petition, which mentions bringing back the 10 days of authorised absence. We could argue for some time about whether it ever existed in the first place, but I do not support that idea. I do not believe that parents should expect an automatic right to a certain number of absence days a year, or that a headteacher should expect to approve them. I want common sense. I want the responsibility to go back to individual headteachers and individual parents, so that they decide what is right for individual children in individual cases. I keep using the word “individual” deliberately, because we cannot have a one-size-fits-all policy that seeks to impose a centrally decided rule on all children in all circumstances. We need the common sense of individual discretion back in the system.