School governors defend headmistress going on Caribbean holiday in term time

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School governors have defended a headteacher who has sparked a row by taking a Caribbean holiday in term-time

Jenny Winder, 53, head of Elstow School nr Bedford, is taking a week off after the Christmas break for a beach break despite it being the start of school term.

Parents who take their children out of school during term time are fined £60 at the school and some have accused the head of ‘disgusting hypocrisy’.

Mrs Winder has refused to give an explanation and said: “My private life is exactly what it says - private.”

But chairman of governors Kevin Hunter said: “She made what we have judged to be a request for a week off during term time for personal reasons which we have judged appropriate.”

He added that Mrs Winder was “devoted, well-liked, extremely hardworking and effective”.

Bedford Borough Council said term-time leave for teachers was “at the discretion” of governors.

A spokeswoman said the head told the council she had not taken holiday during term in her 14 years at the school.

The website for the school, which caters for four to 11-year-olds, says parents “do not have the right” to take their child out of the classroom for family holidays during term time.

It adds that the school “will not authorise” such absences and parents are fined £60 per parent per child per period of absence, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

One parent said: “Ms Winder is taking a week off in the New Year after the children have gone back.

“This is so unfair as teachers already get so many holidays and yet we wouldn’t be allowed to take our children out of school for even a day.”

Another branded the decision as “disgusting” and added: “I’ve been fined twice for taking my children out of school and I put in a request to take them out next year and it’s been refused.

“I think she should either give us an explanation why she is taking time off or at least grant people holiday to do it themselves.”

Crispin Maddocks, an Elstow Parish Councillor, said the headteacher’s decision to go away in term time would make it “difficult” to manage her staffs’ holiday expectations.

He said: “The decision seems unusual, perhaps a little strange given that parents are being told in a pretty severe fashion that they are not allowed to take their children out of school at any time during the year.

“For the governors to agree seems particularly difficult to understand for me.

“The headteacher not being in the school for a few days is not going to stop the school functioning.

“But my particular feeling is that it will be difficult for her to manage her staff in terms of their holiday.

“How is she going to argue that a member of staff shouldn’t have a holiday in term time when she has requested it herself?”

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