School term-time holidays: 'Most parents take them'

boys on beach The government says too many schooldays are lost through term-time holidays

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More than half of parents (55%) in England admit having taken a child on holiday during term time, a poll suggests.

And more than a quarter of the 2,000 polled plan to take their children out of school for a holiday this year.

The prospect of fines was unlikely to put them off, they said.

The survey by LV travel insurance found cost and difficulties getting time off work during peak times were the main reasons behind this.

The Department for Education (DfE) said schools were expected to take a "tough line" on requests to miss lessons.

One in five (20%) parents said they had sought their school's permission for a term-time holiday and been refused.

One in eight (12%) admitted having lied in order take their children out of school for a holiday.

The most common excuses included pretending their child was sick (35%), visiting sick relatives (20%), a family wedding (18%) and a trip for educational purposes (16%).

More than half (57%) of those surveyed said they took their children out of school for a holiday because it was cheaper, with a third (32%) saying they could not afford a break during the school holidays.

A quarter (26%) said that they, or their partner, could not get time off work during school holidays.

Just under half (43%) said they would take their child out of class for a week, while 30% said their holiday would be shorter than this.

Fines

The survey, conducted by ICM, showed 43% of parents believed the cost of a fine was outweighed by the savings made by booking an off-peak holiday.

Issuing fines is one of the last resorts for schools to deal with absence problems, including parents who take their child on holiday during term time without permission from the school.

A parent issued with a fine has 28 days to pay £50 - if they fail, it is doubled.

If the fine is not paid after 42 days, the school or local authority has to withdraw the penalty notice, with the only further option being for local authorities to prosecute parents for the offence.

More than 32,600 penalty notices for school absence were issued to parents last year, and more than 127,000 have been issued since the scheme was introduced in 2004.

However, about half went unpaid or were withdrawn.

'Not surprising'

Selwyn Fernandes, managing director of LV travel insurance, said: "The difference in price for taking a trip during the school holidays and during term time is huge."

He said it was "not surprising" that many parents were willing to risk a fine "when they can save 10 times that by holidaying outside of the peak season".

But the government's "behaviour tsar", Charlie Taylor, has called for a clampdown on term-time holidays.

A DfE spokeswoman said schools were expected to take a "tough line" on requests to miss lessons, as a few days off could leave youngsters struggling to catch up.

"It's down to individual schools to consider requests for holiday absence during term time," she said.

"Each request can only be judged on a case-by-case basis, but it is entirely at the head teacher's discretion, and is not a parental right."

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