Diwali celebrations in Leicester
More School Holidays?
Should our city schools close for non Chrsitain festivals? Our schools shut for Christmas and Easter. But Leicester City Council is considering closing schools for other important religious festivals. BBC Leicester's Ben Jackson investigates...
Our schools already close for two weeks at Christmas and Easter. Should they also shut for such religious festivals as Eid and Diwali?
Apparently, so many pupils take days off in term-time to celebrate these festivals, it's being suggested that if schools closed for the day this would cut levels of absenteeism.
John Broadhead, the city council's Director of Behaviour and Attendance, stresses that this matter is in an early stage of discussion. He says: "There was a large increase in pupil absence in the autumn term of this academic year compared with last year.
"A lot of work is going on in the city to raise the standard of education and improve pupil achievement levels. Because of the well established link between attendance and attainment it's something we need to be mindful of.
"Religious absence counts as a legitimate absence but it is still an absence from school."
Listen: Faith Holidays
Ben Jackson investigates the options.
In Leicester, the situation is that individual schools with large numbers of non-Christian pupils often reschedule teacher training days so that pupils can be off school for major religious festivals.
John Broadhead says: "Some local authorities... are looking at the structure of their school year... The position in Leicester where minority ethnic groups are becoming the majority means we do have to be mindful of this issue.
"But there is no plan at present. It is something the Attendance Strategy Group are looking at."
Needed: A multi-faith approach
Suleman Nagdi , from the Federation of Muslim Organisations, says he would welcome the move to provide non-Christian pupils with time off to celebrate religious festivals.
However, "I wouldn't support an application from one single faith to taker this forward. It has to be a multi-faith approach...
"Someone has to start a rational debate on this and the local authority are best placed to talk to every school in the city.
"The time for the debate has already arrived."
John Broadhead was at pains to explain that the statutory 190 school days a year would always apply come what may. "A cross authority decision is a long way off."
last updated: 28/04/2009 at 12:35