Education & Family

Parents risk fines over term-time holidays

Family at an airport

The BBC has reported a rise in the number of fines issued for taking children out of school, reaching 5,300 penalties in the autumn term of 2013.

The debate over the cost of summer holidays in particular was stimulated earlier in the year with one father's criticism of the premium pricing of family travel, while a couple from Shropshire was fined £1,000 by magistrates for taking their children out of school for a week-long holiday.

Here, parents tell the BBC why they would risk a fine to ensure a holiday with their family.

Michael Mintram, Hythe, Hampshire

Michael Mintram

We are taking our daughter, 13, out of secondary school to go on holiday on Monday 21 July this year.

Our school year ends on Wednesday 23 July. On this day, school will, as it always does, finish at midday. On the other two days, the children do nothing of any educational value, just tidying up, playing games in their tutor groups et cetera.

Absolutely, we are prepared to risk the fine. The rules as they are now are very black and white, there's no flexibility. We will save in excess of £700 on the cost of our holiday compared to travelling to the same destination one week later.

Our child has an excellent attendance record, is a high achiever, having gained a "perfect four" report for every term since she started two years ago, so we have no qualms about her missing these two and a half days of school.

We very carefully weighed up the holiday against what she would miss out on - the cost-saving versus the benefit to my child - which, academically, was two and a half days of packing up.

In our daughter's school, they also operate a rewards-recognition scheme for good behaviour, high levels of attendance, good citizenship values et cetera. This gives pupils opportunities and access to certain privileges. Perhaps consideration should be given to allow the school to include authorised time off in term time (up to a point) as one of those privileges?

The 10-day rule allowed schools discretionary measures for time off, and used effectively, and not abused, seemed much fairer.

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Wendy Samson, Isle of Man

My daughter was fined before the change in the law came in.

My daughter is a single parent in Shropshire - she has two teenagers and a younger son - while we live on the Isle of Man.

We try to help out by taking them away to our place in Spain. As we help out with the TT races, we can't go at certain times.

She got the form from school to apply for leave but was told she could be fined.

She was fined by one school for the two teenage children, but not for the other.

This was in May, the law came in in September. The council didn't fine her, the head master did.

My daughter was fined £60 per child, my husband and I paid.

When we took our grandchildren out for five days after, we were told the head master would look favourably on the leave application.

I wouldn't risk a fine again with my other grandchild, she's got her GCSEs coming up, but I would otherwise, it's important.

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Maeve Flanagan Hind, Bracknell, Berkshire

Maeve Flanagan Hind and her husband

I would like to know what all the money is being spent on.

We took our son out of his primary school for a week in September to attend a family wedding and paid the fine of £60 each per parent within 28 days.

However, we paid five days late due to me being very ill and tested [and] referred for ovarian cancer. Due to this we were prosecuted by the council and taken to court having to pay an additional £150.

I feel we were treated extremely unfairly.

Our son has always had a high attendance record. I'm also on the PTA and have been raising funds for the school for three years.

Hardworking parents are being targeted to make easy money for the government.

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Steve Pearce, Bognor Regis, West Sussex

In April we are taking our youngest out of school for two days to visit the cemeteries in Belgium to mark the 100 years since World War One. This is classed as "unauthorised" even though it's educational and the head of year is pleased we are going.

We won't be fined this time but if I take him out a further three times I will be fined.

I also work for myself and an airline - the ability to take leave during school holidays is not really possible - I have to book the leave a year in advance, in some cases before the school has published their term times.

I have never received a refund when the schools have an inset day (usually just after a holiday) or when the teachers have gone on strike. Rules and penalties have to work both ways.

Also, where does the money go? Do the children benefit from this profit?

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