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Parents of early holiday-goers may face consequences

12:58 29/10/2013

Pascal Smet is examining the level of absences from school at the beginning of the annual autumn vacation, which started last weekend. The Flemish education minister wants to determine how many parents took their children out of school early in order to get a head-start on travel plans.

Schools noted last Friday that the phenomenon of “sick” students on the last day before the holiday continued, despite Smet’s promise at the end of the last school year to crack down on the educational allowances provided to parents of primary and secondary school students. According to media reports, the departures hall at Brussels Airport was crowded with families with children, leaving on holiday early while classes continued.

Some were armed with medical certificates for the absentee children, despite an appeal by the professional association of general practitioners for doctors not to issue medical certificates to allow families to depart early on holiday.

Since the first day of school on 1 September, every absence of primary and secondary school students has been registered in the so-called DISCIMUS system of the education department; prior to that, schools maintained their own register of absences.

Smet intends to use the data from the system to impose sanctions: a child who is absent 10 half days will be automatically assigned a counsellor from the government’s centre for pupil support; those absent 30 half days for reasons other than genuine illness risk losing the allowance.

Written by Alan Hope