It was Rochdale’s own John Bright who first coined the phrase “mother of parliaments”. But despite this grand nickname, the House of Commons is sometimes sadly lacking in parental common sense.
This has never been clearer than when I read in a recent edition of the Observer that families in Rochdale have been fined £90,000 in the last year for taking their children on term time holidays.
After the rules changed in 2013, parents now have to get permission from the school to take their children on holiday during term. Headteachers are only permitted to approve the request in “exceptional circumstances”.
Enjoying holidays together is obviously important for any busy families. But as travel agents increase prices during peak times, it is not always possible for parents to afford time away during the designated school holidays.
Other instances, such as family illness or bereavement, cannot be shoehorned into a convenient school calendar.
Before the summer recess, I raised this issue in Parliament calling the current system “draconian” and urging the Government to reverse the policy.
The debate I was participating in was triggered by a petition started by father-of-two David Hedley. The case of Mr Hedley, who was fined for taking his children on holiday in between his treatments for cancer, is an extreme example of how inflexible and unfair the existing rules can be.
It is important to encourage children to attend school regularly, but there is a balance to be struck. No parent takes the decision to disrupt their child’s education lightly, but it is also important to enjoy quality time together as a family.
The Government needs to give mums and dads in Rochdale some credit and let them make their own decision.
As the saying goes: “mum knows best”. It’s time to let common sense prevail.