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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Are school holiday fines fair?

NEW rules mean parents can only take their children out of school during term-time when the headteacher deems it to be “exceptional circumstances”. Flouting the rule can result in a £60 fine. Is this a fair system?

AMC P59056
SCHOOL DAYS The government argues that parents should not be allowed to take their children out of school during term time for holidays, and parents can be fined if they do. Nikki Griffith, left, and Michael Gove, share their views

I THINK it’s unfair, writes NIKKI GRIFFITH, 28, of Vickerstown, whose daughter Brooke, eight, goes to St Columba’s RC Primary School.

I work in a supermarket with mams, dads, uncles and everybody who wants to have the holidays off with their children.

So we all want the same holidays, we all put in for them and we’re actually advised to get them in 12 to 18 months in advance to be able to get a week off.

Now on the board for August next year, there’s only 280-odd hours left, so they’re going down all the time.

Some can plan ahead that far; some can’t. And the ones that don’t get the school holidays that they want, and they get a week in November – why can’t they take their children out of school to go on holiday?

Me and my partner have been to Turkey and paid £500 for a week all-inclusive for the two of us.

So you don’t really want to pay £600 for one child to go on holiday to Spain.

But I do think it’s important for secondary school children, especially from year nine upwards, to be in school at all times – coming up to GCSEs. In infants and junior school, I do think there is a bit more scope.

But I still think five days out of school isn’t a lot. If your child is not sickly, a regular attender, I don’t think that’s a lot.

It will make parents think it’s worth paying the £60 fine over the excessive prices for holidays over the school summer holidays. Plenty of people have said to me: “well it’s just £60 – it’s not a lot really”.

I couldn’t afford to take my little girl in the summer holidays – I save 12 months of the year to go away. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink; I put my money away and I look forward to my holiday.

I took my daughter to Goa in India in term time when she was at infant school. There was so much she learned.

She saw so much and it was such an eye-opener for her and when she came back she was asked to do a presentation at school and I put a Powerpoint presentation together for her.

The teachers themselves said that what she learned, she could never have picked up in a book.

POOR attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect, and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent, writes MICHAEL GOVE, the Secretary of State for Education.

That is why we have given schools more power to tackle poor attendance and allowed them to intervene much earlier.

We have also increased the amount parents can be fined for unauthorised absences and cut the amount of time they have to pay.

To lay out the alterations, the changes to the law, made in April, came into effect from September 1 in England.

The changes to legislation have removed the discretionary 10-day period of absence which covered family holidays.

It now means that headteachers cannot grant a leave of absence during term time unless in exceptional circumstances.

Where a request is made, it would be for the headteacher to determine how many days a pupil can be away from school if the leave is granted.

So individuals should not book family holidays in term times.

Previously, headteachers could grant leave for the purpose of a family holiday in ‘special circumstances’ for up to 10 school days’ leave per year – though longer in exceptional circumstances.

Amendments to the fine system are also coming in so there is less time to pay if fined. Parents who do not ensure their child’s regular attendance at school will need to pay £60 within 21 days (it used to be 28 days and a £60 fine) or £120 within 28 days (it used to be 42 days and £120 fine).

So parents who decided to take their child out of school without permission will be fined or prosecuted.

Where a leave of absence during term time is agreed to be exceptional, it is vital that it does not coincide with examinations or other important tests that your child has to take.

Have your say

Most normal working parents can not afford the high prices of holidays in the school holidays. They can only afford to go away in term time. If they are unable to take the children out of school the children are unlikely to get a holiday at all. To fine parents for giving their children a holiday which is affordable could be a breach of their human rights and could be legally challenged. I understand that the government want children to attend school in term time but there must be another answer to the problem. The trouble is this government is short sighted and when faced with a problem the answer seems to be lets fine them. they dont realise that the fine will be a lot cheaper than paying for expensive holidays and parents will just take them anyway

Posted by G Quirke on 29 October 2013 at 21:47

We booked our holiday in dec 12 for 2wks in sept 13 an recieved a fine for taking child out of school. Can some1 tell me if we have to pay as it was booked before anything came into force.

Posted by Ste on 26 October 2013 at 11:06

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