Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Newspaper column 21 October 2015 - Debate on school attendance rule changes

Parliament to debate the impact of the school attendance rule changes

I am delighted to report to you that the recently introduced rules, restricting parents from taking their children on holiday during school term times, are to be debated by Parliament, and that I will lead this debate.

The Department for Education implemented the changes on 1 September 2013 under the then Secretary of State, Michael Gove.  The negative financial impacts on the tourist industry have since been termed “the Gove effect”.  The rules have stopped many children from taking holidays in term time and this has caused a drop in tourist revenues across Cornwall, especially in the shoulder months of June and September.

As many of you are aware this is an issue that I have been lobbying on, both before, and since, the election. It is something I pledged to address if I was elected and I have been working on this issue since May – asking questions in Parliament and meeting ministers to raise my concerns. I have taken such a personal interest for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, so many of you have made your feelings clear that as MP I simply could not ignore the force of feeling in mid-Cornwall.  These rules are unfair to Cornwall. So many people here work in the tourist industry and therefore are unable to take a family holiday during school holidays. Additionally many families are simply unable to afford a holiday during the peak season. My job is to represent you and so I have worked to do just that.

Secondly, I believe that parents should have the right to decide what is right and best for their child. Every child is unique. Some children benefit hugely from the experience they gain from traveling and experiencing new cultures – whether in this country or abroad. It is not for the state to dictate to parents in this way.

Thirdly, I believe time away as a family is important and valuable for families, especially these days when we are all so busy. I would argue a strong and stable family and positive relations with parents are just as important in the upbringing of any child as time in the classroom. If the choice is no family holiday or time away together during term time, a holiday should be allowed.

Finally, I believe that the Department for Education made the changes in 2013 without sufficient consideration for all of the consequences, and as a result Cornwall has suffered. Visit Cornwall reported that last they estimate the Cornish economy lost over £40million as a result of families not coming here on holiday during term time.   

While my efforts have been instrumental in highlighting this issue, it was the more than 100,000 people who signed the online petition that ensured that the issue would be debated in Parliament.  While signatories to the petition come from across the UK, the voice of Cornwall was strong – in fact this constituency provided more signatures than any other. 

The debate will be held in Westminster Hall on Monday 26th October. If you feel strongly about this issue and wish to make sure your views are heard then I would welcome hearing from you before the debate. You can email me at