Term-time holidays warning as parents fined for taking children out of North East Lincolnshire schools
PARENTS have been warned that they do not have the right to take their children out of school for holidays after it was revealed that 359 fines were handed out for truancy in the last academic year.
Between September 2011 and July 2012, 359 parents were given penalty notices for either an unauthorised term time holiday, irregular attendance or if a child is seen in a public place within the first five days of an exclusion.
It is a rise from the previous year, when the number was 332, and 74 penalty notices have already been issued this academic year, since September – despite proven links between attendance and grades.
And as we all welcome in January 2013 – the month most of us book holidays in an attempt to lift those post-Christmas blues – North East Lincolnshire Council chiefs hopes that the number of fines serve as a warning to parents not to take children out of school during term time.
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Many are tempted to because holiday prices shoot up during school holidays.
Councillor Ian Lindley, NELC's portfolio holder for people and communities, said: "The law is clear – there is no parental right to take a child out of school for a holiday.
"It is in every child's interest to attend school on every day possible and there is a direct correlation between school attendance and academic results."
The penalty notice is £50, per parent, per child, if paid within 28 days, at which point it rises to £100 with a further 14 days to pay – and parents are prosecuted if they still have not paid by this point.
However, it is small change compared to the hundreds, or even thousands that families can save by booking holidays even a month before the end of term.
By using a well-known online holiday search engine, we found that a holiday to Florida for two adults and two children – including flights and an Orlando apartment – will cost £2,974 leaving during term time on June 28 and £4,248 on July 31 during school holidays.
It's a difference of £1,274 or an extra 42 per cent.
Head teachers and principals have the discretion to authorise holidays in term times but must follow clear Government guidelines on the special circumstances in which this is allowed.
For parents whose work means that they can't take holidays outside of term time, if the holiday will have minimal disruption to that pupil's education.
When a family needs to spend time together because of a crisis or serious illness.
Government guidance advises that holidays taken for the following reasons should not be authorised:
Availability of cheap holidays or certain accommodation.
Bad weather in school holiday periods.
Overlap with the beginning or end of term.
Last year, 112 parents were taken to court for not paying the fines – although 59 of these were eventually withdrawn.
In 2010-2011, 103 parents were prosecuted and 34 were withdrawn, which could be for a number of reasons including moving house, incorrect names being recorded, or if a sibling in another year was granted the time off.
Mr Lindley added: "Education welfare officers work closely with children, parents, carers, schools and academies to promote and ensure maximum attendance."
SHOULD holiday companies be forced to stop the seemingly unfair method of making prices sky high at peak times?
Any hard-working parent, or indeed teacher, would say yes. The difference in prices between term and holiday time is ridiculous and totally unfair - prohibiting many, many families from enjoying a break.
Time together for any parents with their children is extremely valuable and its worth should not be underestimated. Travelling abroad can also broaden the horizons of children who will experience different environments and cultures – if they steer away from the egg and chip bars of the Euro resorts, that is!
Yet no one is preventing the free market holiday companies from bumping up their prices, in some cases they charge almost double the amount during school breaks when compared to low season.
Can the British working parents actually continue to afford what is now becoming a ‘holiday luxury’?
If that is the case, the situation could get even worse. Faced with a possible downturn in bookings, the companies could decide to hike up prices even more to ensure a healthy return.
Or could they actually decide to take a reality check and, in the current economic climate, offer families a better deal? Now that would spread a little sunshine!
*Can you afford a holiday this year? Comment on this story below