Wales politics

Questions over school holiday fine pay-back in Wales

Child swimming Image copyright Elise Jenkins

Campaigners are seeking clarification about whether parents fined for taking children out of school for holidays will be reimbursed.

Education Minister Huw Lewis has written to councils to say it was wrong to tell head teachers to ban all term-time leave.

It came after 2,000 people signed a petition against the £60 fines.

The Welsh government said any reimbursement of fines was an issue for individual councils to look into.

Hundreds of people were fined after some councils, concerned about absentee rates, advised head teachers that there was a blanket ban on term-time leave.

Mr Lewis intervened to clarify that such a ban breached Welsh government regulations.

He reiterated pupils were allowed up to 10 days away at head teachers' discretion, with leave "considered fairly and on its merits".

'Last resort'

Craig Langman, from the campaign group Parents Want A Say, said the minister had brought "common sense back to this whole policy".

He had written to him again to try to establish if any parents would be able to claim money back from the fines, Mr Langman told BBC Radio Wales' Jason Mohammad programme.

"If it turns out that actually you are allowed to reclaim that fine, then we will be telling everyone to do so," he said.

However, the Welsh government said individual councils would have to look into the issue as they imposed the fines.

Image caption The number of penalty notices issued to parents, by local authority area, for their children being out of school in term time

Rob Williams, a former head teacher and now director of policy at the National Association of Headteachers Cymru, said it might not be as simple as reimbursing all fines.

"You would hope those penalty notices were only being issued as a very very last resort," he said, also speaking to BBC Radio Wales' Jason Mohammad.

"It depends on the individual circumstances of each of those cases.

"There are some rare circumstances where on a pattern of absences, if it becomes a larger pattern, research points out that if pupils have a low attendance within school it can have a detrimental affect on their future life chances.

"You have to look at it in a broader picture and not just on a fine that has been issued on a single holiday absence."

'Educating parents'

A BBC Wales Freedom of Information request in 2015 found wide variations in policy of imposing fines.

While Cardiff council issued 370 penalty notices between January and May, 10 other councils did not issue any.

Cardiff council, which had the highest number of fines, said: "In Cardiff we have been very clear that head teachers have the discretion to consider requests for term-time absences and that penalty notices are just one of the ways schools can tackle poor attendance, including educating parents on the negative impact taking their children out of school has on exam results."

Related Topics

More on this story