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Parents have come to me this week very upset by letters that their children have brought home from school. The letters threaten them with legal action if they take their children out of school to attend medical appointments.

The perverse consequence of this is that whereas now, parents often try to ensure that children miss the minimum amount of time, by collecting them from school, taking them to the appointment and bringing them back to school, thus just missing a couple of hours, the threat of legal action will see them taking child out for the whole day and writing a note for the school saying the child was off for health reasons.

The health service is under enormous pressure, and clinics are scheduled for specific times. Missed appointments are already a costly concern to the health service, and can make waiting lists longer. The last thing we want is children missing medical appointments because their parents are afraid of legal action.

As a former teacher and schools’ inspector, I know that poor attendance figures are often caused by just a handful of offenders. Those are the families the authority should pursue, rather than alienating supportive parents with threatening language.

Laws work in a democracy because the law-abiding majority understand the reasoning behind them and broadly support them, even if they sometimes find them a bit annoying. So, instead of getting their backs up, you need to get the law-abiding majority on your side.  To do that, asking nicely for their help and co-operation is a good start.