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Monday, January 4, 1999 Published at 13:10 GMT


School's out for Blair's children

The government says children must return to school on time

Downing Street is insisting that the prime minister sought permission before keeping his children on holiday during term-time.

Sean Tipton of ABTA: "The government clearly feels that this is an issue"
But Tony Blair still faces accusations of hypocrisy for allowing his children to miss school while on an Indian Ocean resort.

The Blairs' winter break to the Seychelles comes just days after his government said it wanted to clamp down on parents taking family holidays during the school term.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has said he will hold discussions with holiday companies and unions about ways of stopping the incentives that cause many parents to plan vacations when their children should be at school.

[ image: The Blairs: Holidaying in the Seychelles]
The Blairs: Holidaying in the Seychelles
The Shadow Education Secretary, David Willetts, said: "This is another piece of Labour hypocrisy in education.

"On the one hand, David Blunkett rightly supported the National Association of Head Teachers when they called on parents not to take their children out of school at term-time.

"Then Tony Blair does the exact opposite by taking his own children out of school to go on holiday."

Mr Blair, his wife Cherie and children, Euan, Nicky and Kathryn, fly back from the Seychelles on Tuesday.

It means Euan, 14, and Nicky, 13, will return to the Oratory School in south London on Wednesday - a day after the other pupils.

Kathryn, 10, will miss two days at St Joan of Arc Primary School, in north London.

Headmaster's stern letter

Despite the claim of approved leave, the headmaster of Oratory School, John McIntosh, criticised what he called their "unauthorised absence" and said he usually wrote a stern letter to parents who let their children stay away in term-time.

"I am really tough about this sort of thing," he said. "I say to parents they must observe what I call the three Hs - haircuts, holidays and homework."

Teaching union leaders added their voice to the criticism.

The General Secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, Nigel de Gruchy, said politicians should practise what they preached.

"This is a good example of why politicians should keep their mouths shut and not try to lecture other parents," he said. "They try to tell teachers how to run schools and end up being embarrassed themselves."

The General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said: "This is a very bad example for the prime minister to set. It will not help head teachers who are trying to enforce a policy of persuading parents to be more responsible."

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