Give Peterborough parents a break

Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Any parent whose child persistently misses school for no good reason should have the book thrown at them. Preferably a large encyclopedia.

The key words are “for no good reason’’ .

Family holidays are a good reason.

The government and councils’ criminalisation and demonisation of parents who take children out of school for holidays is an outrage.

Truancy must be tackled but if the government was serious about tackling the issue it would make the disgraceful profiteering by the leisure industry illegal.

I’ve just returned from what is probably the last family holiday before my daughter begins school.

It cost us £400 for four nights. If we had gone a week later (when the schools were on holiday it would have cost us a staggering £1,300.

And the weather was worse that week too!

Please (unless you want to make my blood boil) don’t tell me it’s just supply and demand. I could accept that if parents weren’t forced into a limited period when they can go on holiday.

With his usual level-headed pragmatism city council leader John Holdich has said he will look at changing city school term times in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

I applaud his initiative but fear it will have little effect.

Simply, this is bad law which is why so many decent law abiding citizens choose to ignore it.

I know several Peterborough parents who accept the £60 per parent fines because it stillworks out much more affordable to holiday during term times.

And these people are good, caring parents who want the best for their children not least in their education.

I have huge sympathy with city mum Julie Darcy who was fined after her daughter was ill.

The council’s head of school improvement said Miss Darcy had been given “every opportunity’’ to prove her daughter was ill.

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

The principle of this law is wrong but equally so is the haphazard application of it.

It is at a head teachers’ discretion whether or not to authorise term time absence.Hardly a uniform policy.

I am a passionate believer in education and I intend to ingrain in my children the value of a good education and the importance of school attendance.

I have no doubt the most important single factor influencing my children’s education will be me and their mum.

Not a government minister, not faceless bureaucrats, not even the talented and dedicated teachers who I hope my children will be lucky enough to have.

I shall hesitate before deciding to take my children out of school in term time, but I’m not ruling it out.

Put a sock in it

It’s nice to get some hot weather at last but we are so unused to it that a bit of sun is quickly followed by some health advice. My favourite is “wear loose clothing’’.

Does anyone know where you can buy loose socks?

Pushing their luck

What on earth is going on at Peterborough City Council?

Two senior councillors (and grown men), Seaton and Shearman, were involved in an unseemly altercation that has led to the police being called in. I’m all for a bit of passion in politics, but whatever the rights and wrongs it is yet another episode that reflects badly on the city.

Testing times

A Peterborough man has failed the theory part of his driving test a staggering 86 times. Top marks for perseverance but perhaps it’s time he ignored Robert the Bruce’s example and bought a bike.

Another manager

The rationale behind the planned merger of Peterborough and Hinchingbrooke hospital trusts is to deliver millions of pounds of much-needed savings.

Even before the ink is dry on the deal the trusts have advertised for a “Guardian Of Safe Working’’.

It is a new role introduced to “ensure junior doctors do not work excessive hours and that hospitals offer posts that are compliant with modern working standards.’’ And the salary scale for this post? £75,249 to £101,451! No wonder the Government says vaccinating all children against Meningitis B is “not cost effective’’.

Pat on the back

An independent review into child sexual exploitation in Peterborough and the subsequent Operation Erle has praised the city’s multi-agency response. The report reveals all organisations involved played their part in tackling what is a very complex and difficult criminal and social situation. Usually the phrase “multi-agency working’’ has me rolling their eyes in despair, but in this case it has come up trumps.

Park strife

Bretton Water Park is a popular and much loved facility (despite the city council’s continued ineptitude at keeping the site secure from unwanted visitors). It opened again on Sunday, May 29, after schools broke for half-term and before a bank holiday. But why on earth wasn’t it open on the Saturday? If it was privately run, it would have been. And please don’t tell me it’s free, it’s not if you pay council tax.