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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 19 February 2007

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Crackdown on term-time holidays

A CRACKDOWN on parents who take their children on holiday during term-time is to be launched in Liverpool.  The city council’s Executive Board is being asked to approve a new policy which means that schools will not grant requests for family holidays during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.  Parents who defy schools face the risk of being issued with a penalty notice and having to pay a fine, and could even have their child removed from the school roll. 

It follows a study which revealed that some youngsters are missing weeks of school per year because parents take them out of school to jet off abroad.  Having just 1 week per term off is equivalent to 60 hours of lessons per year and equivalent to almost 8% of their total annual schooling.  Studies show that a 90% attendance rate cuts good GSCE grades by 50%.  It is estimated that attendance levels could be improved by 20% as a result of the crackdown.

Councillor Paul Clein, executive member for children’s services, said:- “We have made great strides in recent years in improving attendance but there has been a significant increase in parents taking youngsters out of school during term time for family holidays.  Contrary to popular belief, parents are not entitled to take their children out of school for holidays. We have a legal duty to make sure that pupils attend school regularly and so do parents.  All the evidence shows that pupils who miss lessons do less well in exams and are more likely to end up unemployed when they leave school and are at a greater risk of ending up in prison."

In a bid to encourage parents to use school holidays for trips away, the city council has teamed up with local travel agents to offer discounts of up to 10%. They are: United Co-op Travel, Thomas Cook, Barnes Worldwide Travel and CI Travel Holdings.  Further holiday offers are also available through the Department for Education and Skills “Every Lesson Counts” scheme. Details can be found at www.abta.com www.fto.co.uk  and www.enjoyengland.com.

Ron Collinson, Liverpool’s attendance lead officer, said:- “There is a great temptation for parents to save money by going on holiday during term time, but you cannot put a price on a child’s education.  Missing school carries costs for children in the short and long term. They can get left behind in class and struggle as a result.  We are doing our bit to help by launching the discount scheme but are having to get tough for the sake of the education of Liverpool's children.”

In future, parents wanting permission to take their child out of school must have exceptional circumstances, give at least six weeks notice and wrap the dates around existing holiday times where possible. Exceptional circumstances could include:

· Return to country of origin for family, religious or cultural reasons

· Parents/carers recovering from serious illness and needing convalescence/recuperation

· Death of a parent/brother/sister

· Life threatening illness or critical illness of parent/brother/sister

The Executive Board of the city council will decide whether to approve the policy at a meeting on Friday 16 February 2006.

SINGLE HOME OCCUPANCY CONTINUES TO GROW

MORE people are living alone than ever before, a trend that is set to increase according to property lettings specialist Belvoir.   And the National Lettings Group predicts that this trend will lead to an increase in demand for single occupancy rental properties. 

So what is driving this trend? According to Belvoir’s Chief Executive Mike Goddard, the increase in the number of singletons looking to rent their own home is down to a number of demographic trends including:-

- Young people leaving the family nest earlier 

- Rising house prices

– many single people simply cannot afford to buy a place of their own

- Career people looking to settle down and start families later in life

- The independent spirit that typifies 21st Century living

- A growing trend among business people to rent a Monday-Friday base close to the office to reduce the weekly commute and allow them to return to the family home at weekends

- The growing number of older single people living alone following divorce or the loss of their spouse – often dubbed the regretful loners’ 

- As more couples decide against having children, those who then separate or divorce then create 2 rather than 1 single occupancy household

According to Government research the number of single occupancy households is expected to increase to over 40% by 2026 more than a 3rd of the overall housing market. Indeed, singletons are now seen as a core target market for companies across a wide variety of sectors, with the food industry for example sees the growth in the number of single occupancy homes as a key driver in terms of product development over the next 10 years.

Historically, the majority of single occupancy homes were populated by widows who often lived on a strict budget and tended to reside in the same property for the remainder of their lives. However, today’s singletons are younger, often more affluent and increasingly mobile, with many of them moving frequently to meet work or lifestyle demands.  While getting a foothold on the property ladder is still seen as a priority for many single people, an increasing number of them are turning to the rental market to meet their housing needs. Affordability and flexibility are key drivers of this trend according to Goddard.

“Renting is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition not only for couples and families but especially for the growing number of single people looking to have a place of their own.  However, with the growth in demand we are also seeing the demand for higher quality properties on the increase among younger, more affluent singletons who a very discerning sector of the population.  We predict that good quality housing which meets the needs of younger single people will continue to be a big growth area for Belvoir Lettings over the next few years.  In terms of investment opportunities, we are seeing a lot of investors including a small studio or one bedroom flat in their portfolio.” says Goddard.

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