More parents given fines for taking children out of school for holidays

More parents have been fined for taking their children out of school for holidays More parents have been fined for taking their children out of school for holidays

Friday, July 25, 2014
9:25 AM

The number of parents being fined for taking their children out of school in term-time is on the rise, with 119 more fixed penalty notices issued across the region than last year.

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The headteacher’s view

Rob Anthony, deputy headteacher at The Hewett School in Norwich:

“We have started making use of fining parents where we felt they were taking children out of school unnecessarily.

“You try and persuade parents as much as possible that the best place for children is in school and learning, but parents are taking children out of school for a number of reasons and we will only authorise it if it’s exceptional.

“The problem is, there is no legal definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’, it’s down to each individual school or headteacher to make a decision on that. But it does mean that in about 95pc of cases you are saying no. The school used to be able to authorise up to 10 days a year, which used to cover most holidays, but taking a child on holiday is not exceptional. I think the line is drawn too harshly, it should be down to headteachers and I think it should be is it reasonable, not exceptional.”

Clare Fletcher, executive headteacher at North Walsham Infant, Junior and Nursery Federation:

“I think the number of requests to take children out of school in term-time has remained static. What’s changed is not the number of requests, but if they have been granted.

The school governors made note of the government policy that came into force last November and said I was not to authorise any term-time holiday except for exceptional family reasons. If a couple were going to get married on a Wednesday and they wanted their son to be a page boy, that’s an exceptional reason.

But if a family said they wanted to go to Disneyland in term-time because it’s cheaper, I wouldn’t authorise it. I would be sympathetic.

“If I child has already had a lot of absence, I won’t authorise more time off and if the child’s attendance is below 90pc, the county’s Attendance Service will decide about whether to fine the parents or not.

“Staff who work in schools cannot take their children out of school in term-time and a lot of them are on low pay.”

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of parents fined in Norfolk has risen from 98 last year to 145 this year, from 28 to 99 in Cambridgeshire and from 215 to 216 in Suffolk.

Nationally, a study has revealed a 70% increase in fines.

The number of parents prosecuted for not paying these fines has also increased, from 24 to 36 in Norfolk, one to 13 in Cambridgeshire and 53 to 58 and counting in Suffolk.

Money made by the councils in fines this year totals £6,780 in Suffolk, £5,760 in Norfolk and £5,420 in Cambridgeshire.

“I feel it’s a breach of your human rights”

Father of three Gary MacDonald, from Lowestoft, cannot choose when he takes annual leave from work.

This year, his holiday falls in August, but he is adamant that if it turns out to be during term-time next year, he will take his children out of school and face the fines. “I feel it’s a breach of your human rights not to be able to spend time as a family,” said Mr MacDonald.

“Children can learn a lot on their holidays. I have always asked their schools for homework to do while we are away as well. But this has ruined any time off. We are given our holiday and the only way we could change it is to swap with someone else at work – but that is never guaranteed and many of my colleagues have school-aged children too. I am quite fortunate that my holiday has fallen in August this year, but we are having to holiday in this country because of the expense of going abroad at that time of year. I have said to the school I will take the children out if my holiday is during term-time next year. The most damage it will do is to the attendance records of the school. It won’t do my children any harm at all. There should be more flexibility and schools should be allowed to use their own discretion.”

Parents in the region have hit back at the fines, saying it is unfair for people who work and are often unable to take time off during the school holidays.

And others say they are prepared to pay the fines because they are cheaper than the cost of a holiday in peak season.

Parent Joanna Gorringe said: “I took all three of mine out for a family holiday at the beginning of June. All unauthorised. But it was £3,500 cheaper to go when we did than it would have been if we went the week before, which was May half-term.

“They lived a different culture for the week and that in itself is a lesson the schools cannot ever teach them. I am awaiting the fine for all three.”

But some were keen to point out the blame should not lie with teachers or schools.

Mother Nerys Wakely said: “I don’t agree with fining parents for taking their children out of school during term-time to have invaluable family time, but we must remember that the blame does not lie at the teachers’ door. We should be looking at the government, which implemented this rule in the first place.

“I am sure the headteachers and teachers of every school in the country know the importance of family time, as they themselves have to take their holidays in the school holidays too, therefore facing the same restrictions as us parents.”

Parents in England and Wales have a legal reponsibility to make sure their child goes to school, unless they are home educating them. Failure to do so means they are committing an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

Previously, headteachers were able to grant up to 10 days of leave each year for family holidays in special circumstances, but they are now unable to grant any absence in term time, except under exceptional circumstances.

Val Creasy, attendance and exclusions strategy manager at Norfolk County Council said: “There’s a link between attendance at school and attainment. Research has shown that often children do not catch up on work that they miss when they are away and this can have serious consequences for their learning and improvement.

“The government is very clear that all schools must aim to have the highest attendance possible for all their pupils in order for them to achieve their maximum potential.”

But the National Union of Teachers said fining parents was not the solution.

“Children do need to be in school during term time,” said a union spokesman.

“We do, however, sympathise with parents and carers about the increased costs of breaks during school holiday periods. However, fining parents is not the solution.

“Rather than encouraging parents to take their children out of school it would be more helpful for companies not to increase their costs during the school holiday period.”

What do you think? Email edpletters@archant.co.uk giving your full name and contact details.

Comment – page 38.

41 comments

  • ...."You learnt about other cultures from books!!!!".....true, but are you saying that Carlton Colville is without culture?

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    Rhombus

    Saturday, July 26, 2014

  • I am thinking I must have had a deprived childhood my holiday was a week at Carlton Colville with an Aunt. They were good weeks, you met new people and did different things. This was in the 50's when many people made their own enjoyment and didn't need to jet off. You learnt about other cultures from books!!!!

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    jennifer jane

    Saturday, July 26, 2014

  • Where is the fairness in all this. Iceni Academy at Methwold took it upon themselves to close at lunchtime on Wednesday, the last day of term, causing a childcare headache to many parents. If the schools can do this on a whim the the parents can take their children on holiday in term time. I am a retired teacher and advocate that a family holiday provides children with a far more rounded education than the pressures of schools satisfying Ofsted. Parents do not pay the fines..

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    Jacob Burns

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Union Jack, teachers are, in effect, fined when they strike because they are docked their pay for the days they are striking.

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    Row71

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Most of these dimwit parents talk as if it an assault on their human rights.Since when is a cheap holiday anything to do with that.Standards please

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    PaulH

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • ....."Education has become never mind the quality feel the width"....well we have had never mind the quality just measure the qualifications....and as it is almost impossible to fail a teacher training degree programme, why does 'qualified' teacher status guarantee high standards?

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    Rhombus

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • There is another way the Government can quite easily solve this problem without fining parents, simple fine the Travel Agents if they are found in breach of selling a holiday to a family with kids during term time and also fine Airlines if they are found in breach of transporting kids during term time. I am sure the Government can make a law to suit this. and then the parents have no choice in taking their kids abroad at least. but before then fine them heavily and take them to court if they don't pay the fine then fine them again, a day in court will cost them even more.

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    Lyn Flatt

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • I recently took my 18month old to Tenerife just after May half term for 10 nights while I was there I met a lady who had taken her kids out during term time & said it was cheaper to pay the fine per parent per week than wait to go during term time come off it the educational sector has got pathetic over the years some parents like my partner can't take peak seasons off work which leads to term time holidays I remember being a child & my parents never had to put up with this pathetic rule I actually took school work on holiday with me on siestas to do it did it distrust my education??? NO did I learn anything while on holiday??? YES geography which I passed with flying colours & when my daughter is at school I WILL BE taking her out for holidays so I can enjoy a well earned break other than being in a packed resort due to these ridiculous rules! Kids don't lose out on education while on holiday I could tell you more things about history of Canary Islands than a professional teacher could!

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    Lucieloo12

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • So why not reduce the length of the summer holiday by 2 weeks, and allow 10 days holiday in term time other than years 11 onwards. Also extend the teaching day by one hour up to age 12 and 2 hours above 12 years of age. This would prepare children for work, and give more time for education. Meanwhile if parents are to be fined then striking teachers, or those who are absent in term time for holiday, should be fined for depriving kids of education. I share the governments concern over loss of education time, but I am disappointed that they did not explore other ways of rectifying the problem.

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    Union Jack

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • I neither have nor want children but reluctantly pay my taxes to fund the education of other's. Money which goes to waste each and every time a parent takes their kid out of school unnecessarily. To expect them to provide a rebate for this in the form of a fine is not unreasonable in my eyes.

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    NROO

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • With a holiday for a family of 4 costing double during the holidays I'll happily pay the fine - cheap option if you ask me! What gets me is that yet again the government forced something on us without providing an alternative. Why can't they put pressure on the holiday companies to keep prices at a reasonable level or stager the school holidays. The Scottish got it right and broke up weeks ago and got all the cheap holidays before the English broke up. Supply and demand it may be but when the hotel is full it's full - you can't book more rooms and flights than exist. They also need to remember that the experience of travel , encountering different cultures IS education why not embrace this and make it part of the curriculum - put a learning spin on it. I appreciate that being in school is important but this just attacks the normal family trying to afford a normal family holiday. The real issue is the truant children and their parents who blatantly allow it to happen. That's where the issue sits. And please stop going on about the Unions and strikes - the teachers don't want this anymore than anyone else - blame the government and remember, fine or not the teachers have no choice other than to be in school during term times and pay the extortionate prices during the holidays.

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    Jonno65

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • I've actually changed my viewpoint on this after reading from parents and schools. The argument for going during term time will never be valid all the time it is justified for cost reasons (i.e.go somewhere cheaper or save up till next year). However I do believe holidays during term time should be authorised for a week except for the most crucial years (year 11, 12 and 13).

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    TheTruth

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Children are constantly learning whether they are at school or not. When they leave school and go into employment employers find that because of the narrow curriculum the children do not have the soft skills to cope at work. These soft skills are often learnt outside of school and in social situations. I have always believed that the main activity of a school should be to teach the children how to learn and how to disseminate opinion into fact. Rather than an education ministers view of British history or their favourite religion.

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    PDH

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • If the fines are not paid, then stand the parents up in court and fine them against, and keep them in a cell until the fines are paid !!! they will soon pay !!

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    Footyboy16

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • There is one simple way to stop most of the parents taking kids out of school during term time and you can kill 2 birds with one stone, fine the airline companies and the travel agents for selling holidays and seats on planes. The Airline companies know the rules are being broken, the travel agents know the rules are being broken, so give them heavy fines if they are found to having kids on their planes or for selling holidays to parents out of term time, and the parents wouldn't be able to take their kids abroad.

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    Footyboy16

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • They should fine the useless unions or poor schools like Iceni academy at Methwold who fail the children everyday. How dare these jumped up head teachers moan at parents when they are the biggest hypocrites going

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    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • And the the management of schools and expecting every child to fit neatly in a box is why i am starting Home Education in September. Although my ex husband asked what i would do if he booked in holiday time, he was duly told he would be fined ;)

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    wonderwife

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • @Chipin I wouldn't rely on it being as generously flexible down to 90% -more like 95 or 96% I'd guess. The point is we do not know with the required clarity how the legal powers are being implemented. With the narrow margins for error regarding unauthorised absences just pray that you both have a good relationship with the school office and that your well intentioned phone call is propely recorded in the maelstrom that is a typical school office between 8.15 and 9.00!

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    guella

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • So missing school for a week on holiday is bad for the child's education. So why is missing school for a week because of strikes any different. Importance of attendance also changes with age.

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    Andy T

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Write to the Union to find out future strike dates and book for then.

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    Andy T

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Great comments Daisy Roots. I think MonkeyNuts also has a valid point - i'm guessing had you suffered terminal illness, your holiday would have been authorised!!!?! Education is more than just class room exercises. Oh and missing register due to a hospital appointment is also classed as an absence which affects the attendance record....so too many of them during the school term will get you closer to the 90% mark aswell!!

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    Chipin

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • The rules are written quietly by the government whose only narrow appreciation of their expenditure is yet another meaningless measure by statistics. It also demonsrates the degree in which they have become control freaks in as much as the directives mandate that a pupil who misses registration for whatever reason is considered as subsequently being unauthorisedly absent for the whole of the remainder of the day. This could have a significant impact on later holiday decisions in that those absences could push a child's attendance record below some arbitrary unknown benchmark figure when combined with a weeks holiday which on its own would only reduce the attendance by 2.64%. This is no way to naturally administer justice which is what it truly is when the issue of penalty notices or fines comes into play. Please refer all enquiries to the County Councillor (s) holding an education portfolio.

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    guella

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Lord Elf-if the government does not consider education important enough to compel schools and academies to use fully qualified graduate staff to teach ALL lessons then why should we care what they think about children going on holiday with their parents? Education has become never mind the quality feel the width and look at the PR.

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    Daisy Roots

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • If only I could afford to send my children to private school - I could take advantage of the longer holidays to get those cheaper holiday rates. Keep the plebs at bay it seems to me.

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    CanaryGirl72

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • There's more to life than school. The problem is that these rules are written by people whose careers rely almost entirely on formal education and they cannot see beyond this.

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    AE

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Dont forget to blame the holiday companiesairlines who bump up their prices during half-term. A flight to Tenerife from Stansted is normally around £100, but for the half-term week in October it raises to £560 per person. Its no wonder parents are pulling children out of school during term time, its cheaper. But thats supply and demand I suppose

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    Piranha24

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Precisely, these measures were instituted under the auspices of two Dfe directives of July and November of last year on Mr Gove's watch and administered by local suthorities according to self determined codes of conduct which have never been publicly clearly explained. Headteachers cannot say yes lr no because the apparently arbitrary decisions are taken elsewhere.

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    guella

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • " Don't blame the schools for the lack of flexibility on attendance, this is a government edict which the schools have virtually no choice on." Exactly Row71 BUT the headmaster - mistress do. they have a choice to say Yes or No.

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    "V"

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Is your child's holiday more important than their education??? Did the parents not consider these problems when they were thinking about having children? It's called FAMILY PLANNING.

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    Lord Elf

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Those who trot out the usual arguments about strikes and snow, didn't your parents teach you that two wrongs don't make a right! Don't blame the schools for the lack of flexibility on attendance, this is a government edict which the schools have virtually no choice on. Personally I would never take my child out of school for a holiday in term time, I save up until I can afford to go. Also, this is a holiday area so there is plenty that families can do together on their doorstep if they can't afford to travel. However, I also feel that Headteacher's need to be given more flexibility and guidance on what is deemed exceptional.

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    Row71

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Those who trot out the usual arguments about strikes and snow, didn't your parents teach you that two wrongs don't make a right! Don't blame the schools for the lack of flexibility on attendance, this is a government edict which the schools have virtually no choice on. Personally I would never take my child out of school for a holiday in term time, I save up until I can afford to go. Also, this is a holiday area so there is plenty that families can do together on their doorstep if they can't afford to travel. However, I also feel that Headteacher's need to be given more flexibility and guidance on what is deemed exceptional.

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    Row71

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • when the useless teachers come out on strike, then send your invoice to the headmaster - headmistress of the school and to Norfolk county Council, to claim for your childcare costs.

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    "V"

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • It would help to defuse an issue of unnecessary potential conflict if Norfolk County Council would provide details of its code of conduct in determinig unauthorised absence rather than simply mouthing general platitudes from government papers. The Dfe directive in place at the moment and which is due for review this month states that whilst Headteachers can no longer authorise holiday absence the local authority can only issue fixed penalty notices if such absence breaches their own determined code of conduct. Look at the figures for one moment and consider whether 145 fixed penalty notices can possibly correlate to 100% of incidents in the whole county where the only citeria was a one off family holiday. Surely other persistent aggravating factors were taken into account. A little clarity might obviate divisive comments about parents and teachers attitudes alike.

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    guella

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • What would you class as "exceptional"? An Offshore worker working the 6 weeks holidays? A serviceman in the forces away for a couple of months at a time? How about someone wanting a holiday to recover from Cancer? It wasnt deemed "exceptional" according to my childs Head Teacher. I went anyway and await the fine. Let the kids be kids. Enjoy family time, we don't know just how much time we have with them.

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    MonkeyNuts

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Good comment again from Daisy. The holiday this year is 5 full weeks and 2 part weeks making harder to fit a family holiday in. Other countries have much longer Summer breaks but we seem to be moving to shorter. Children don't need to be at school longer than they currently are especially under 11s

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    JohnnyH

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Will the Government provide all those that work for it ie Police, Prison, NHS, armed Forces and numerous others two weeks holiday during the school holidays of course not. This smacks of a class society where the working class are not entitled to a family holiday.

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    Michael Johnson

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Plus it is not always cost that drives the decision. As the summer vac gets shorter parents in work have greater difficulty taking time off at the same time. That local schools have run a part week this week shows a staggering lack of respect for parents-it reduced the available weeks for booking leave and holidays.Presumably the return week will also be impossible to use because it will be a part week too. If it is to be illegal to take kids out of school term time the vacs must be full weeks.

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    Daisy Roots

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • At the moment there is a worrying lack of respect shown for the welfare and happiness of children in school . It is being driven by management teams and heads with their eye on statistics and CVs rather than the education and well being of their pupils. Attendance records are just one of the manifestations-imposed by legislation- but there are others, little things. Like very short lunch breaks for rural kids for whom it is the only chance to get together with their friends, inadequate provision of locker and hanging space for wet clothes, badly designed uniform, girls forced into trousers all year round, computer systems not differentiating between absence for bereavement and skiving, lavatories shut for most of the day, children not permitted to leave lessons to use the loo. And worst of all the use of unqualified lesson supervisors. Is no one here a parent or grandparent who knows that although schools are under the whip of the education ministry and Ofsted they are less and less inclined to show discretion and respect for pupils and parents. If kids are being treated as a product, it is no wonder parents feel little compunction about taking kids out of school term time. I did it because otherwise my kids would never have had a holiday with their father- my kids have a PhD, three MAs and a PGCE between them.

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    Daisy Roots

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • “There’s a link between attendance at school and attainment. Research has shown that often children do not catch up on work that they miss when they are away and this can have serious consequences for their learning and improvement." So, what about when the school closes due to snow? Or the teachers go on strike? Doesn't that have an effect as well? Take the last couple of weeks - the kids have done very little serious learning over the last two weeks. Last week there was a load of Taverham High School kids on a camp in Hautbois. If you'd taken your child out of school that week for a holiday, you would have been fined, but what were they doing? Exactly the same sort of things they would have done on holiday! If your kids are not in their final year of GCSE or A Level, the chance of missing something vital and not catching up if you take them out early in the summer or an extended summer half-term break is minimal. Plus, if you're a couple you BOTH get fined, but a single parent gets a single fine. It should be a set amount per child, not per parent.

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    So_Many_Haters!

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • “I feel it’s a breach of your human rights” Eh? How? Basically its a stock response for people who cannot justify themselves by reasonable argument.

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    Crazy

    Friday, July 25, 2014

  • Seems harsh when school teachers are more than happy to deny children their right of an education by going on strike regularly and closing a school when there is little more than a heavy frost

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    blister

    Friday, July 25, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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