Parents warned over taking holidays during school time
EDUCATION Minister Ruairi Quinn has suggested that it may be necessary to tighten the rules to keep a closer watch on children who are missing school regularly.
Pupils automatically come to the attention of the authorities if they miss 20 days or more -- although in cases where there may be a good reason, such as illness, there is no follow-up action.
Mr Quinn said he would be speaking to Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald -- who has responsibility for the National Educational Welfare Board, which monitors school attendance -- about whether the 20-day threshold should be reduced.
The minister was reacting to reports that parents were taking their children out of school during term time to take advantage of cheap holidays, despite the roll-out of new school-attendance legislation in recent years.
Mr Quinn said he could understand the financial pressure on parents who wanted a take a discounted holiday but said they also had to value education.
He would be concerned that pupils losing 20 days a year over the span of their school life were missing the equivalent of almost a year of their education.
Mr Quinn said "simply giving out" to parents because they were availing of a holiday would not be an effective response.
An average primary pupil misses 11 days of the 183-day school year, while at post-primary level, the average pupil misses 13 of 167 days.
However, one in eight pupils, across both primary and post-primary, miss at least 20 days a year -- about 58,000 at primary and 53,000 in post-primary.
The figures are reported to the NEWB on a quarterly basis and schools advise whether there is a problem that education welfare officers need to follow up
Dan O'Shea, Munster regional manager of the NEWB, told the Irish Independent it had anecdotal evidence that children were removed to take advantage of cheaper holidays.
He said the trend was not confined to one socio-economic class.
Mr O'Shea added that while reducing the 20-day threshold would increase the volume of what was reported to the board, it would not mean that the number of children in need of assistance would get the help. Many of the cases they dealt with involved children missing 50 days or more.