By the way, I wouldn't use the term "Exceptional reason" but "opportunity" because the law it is not there for exceptional reasons, but to grant an opportunity to the child.Dear Ms XXX (LEA),
Thank you for taking the time to talk to me last XXXXX. As discuss with you, I believe XXXXX, Children Administrator for XXXXX, will apply for a licence for my daughter XXXX to partecipate in their production XXXXX from xxxx to xxxx, with rehearsal starting on xxxxx.
Attached is the letter from Mr XXXXX, Headteacher of XXXXX, stating that they don't allow time off school to pupils who ask to take part in Performing Arts. The decision is taken without considering if the child is in target (if not above) the national standards for accademic results or for number of absence, and without taking in consideration the educational benefits of the project, neither the professional opportunity which is recognised by one of the biggest industry in London and that will be useful later on when apply to University or developing any kind of carreer in the performing arts (not just acting but in the creative or administrative side of the industry).
The reason of my letter is that I fear that Mr XXXXX's letter can jeopardise the chance for my daughter to be part of what my husband and I believe is an amazing educational and professional opportunity.
To have a consistent approach to this matter is a well known problem. As stated by The National Network for Children in Employment and Entertainment (NNCEE), which your office is a member (IF YOUR LEA IS A MEMBER< PLEASE CHECK), they are "dedicated to the continual development and implementation of ‘good practice’ issues for children engaged in employment and taking part in public performances". Furthermore they "are also committed to what they believe as the right of children to access opportunity. We recognise that a consistent approach by all local authorities will inevitably lead to providing more, as well as, better outcomes and opportunities for children." They recognise "the difficulties faced by productions where there is a different response in various parts of the country, and can mean that one child may take part and another may not. This is unfair on productions, but more significantly it is unfair to the child." "The so called ‘postcode lottery’, must be extinguished", they say.
I would add that this would be less so if the licensing authorities would make use and enforce the powers the law grant to them, as per Children and Young Persons Act 1963 chapter 37 (4) : " ... a local authority shall not grant a licence for a child to [do anything] unless they are satisfied that he is fit to [do it], that proper provision has been made to secure his health and kind treatment and that, having regard to such provision (if any) as has been or will be made therefor, his education will not suffer; but if they are so satisfied, in the case of an application duly made for a licence under this section which they have power to grant, they shall not refuse to grant the licence."
The Statutory Instrument that followed the Act, The Children (Performances) Regulations 1968, states chapter 2 (1) "The licensing authority may make such inquiries as they consider necessary to enable them to be satisfied that they should grant a licence as required by section 37(4) of the Act, and in particular they may request a report from the head teacher in respect of the child."
It seems to me that the licensing authority, in order to gather all the necessary data to form its valuation on the request, can ask the school a report on the child in respect, presumably, to his/her school's results and number of absences and NOT the school's opinion on Performing Arts.
It seems to me that even in case the school could produce poor results and attendance for the pupil (which is absolutely not the case of XXXX), still the Local Authority have discretionary judgment on the case and decides (if the request satisfies the conditions imposed by the Act in relation to the welfare and the education of the child) that it is indeed an opportunity for the child not to be missed and licence must be granted.
In fact, the relevance of the independent judgement of the Local Authority finds confirmation in chapter 39 (6) where it says "Where a local authority refuse an application for a licence under section 37 of this Act or revoke or, otherwise than on the application of the holder, vary such a licence they shall state their grounds for doing so in writing to the applicant or, as the case may be, the holder of the licence; and the applicant or holder may appeal to a magistrates’ court". The right to appeal is against the Local Authority's decision not the school's letter.
I believe the Legislator gave the licensing authority to the Local Education Authority and not to the schools to avoid that different "opinions" could create disparity among the children.
Once the licence is awarded the school HAS TO authorised the absence by law.