The 1996 Education Act states that it is an offence for parents to take time off during term time. Up until September 2013, head teachers were allowed to exercise discretion if parents wanted to take their children away for up to ten days under ‘special circumstances.’ The rules have changed.
The government’s position
Schools argue that absence from school can lead to poor exam results, and the Department for Education (DfE) states that: ‘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.’ The department doesn’t differentiate between truancy as opposed to occasional absences as a result of family holidays. Schools that wish to canvas opinion on this matter can use ParentMail as a means of hearing from families, and discovering what they think about this issue.
For example, the Forms, Permission and Surveys App allows schools to send home multiple surveys electronically, meaning parents can quickly and easily complete them on their mobile phone or computer.
Breaking the law can prove costly
The new rules introduced by the DfE only permit a child to be absent from school for ‘exceptional circumstances’ and these relate to funerals or illness, not holidays. Families who break the law can face a fine of £60 per child, and if the fine isn’t paid within seven days, it rises to £120. Complete refusal to pay the fine can lead to a prosecution, a potential court case and prison. Some families believe that the fault lies with the airlines and holiday companies, and the high price of holidays during the peak season. Parents are willing to risk a fine in order to save money. The matter was debated in the House of Commons and according to Hansard feelings are running high among MPs and their constituents.
It’s much more expensive to take a holiday during the peak period
If a child isn’t facing an exam syllabus and might even benefit by having a family holiday, then head teachers should still be allowed to exercise their discretion in this matter. The Guardian carried out a poll among holiday companies earlier this year and it discovered that some firms raise their holiday prices by between 20 and 99%, during the school holiday period. Butlins was the worst offender in this survey. Four nights in Bognor Regis will cost a family of two adults and two children £480 in term time and a hugely expensive £956 for the last week in July, that traditional start of the school holiday.
There should be a price cap on the travel industry
Despite numerous calls across the UK for the travel industry to lower its school holiday costs, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has responded by saying that the responsibility lies with the school and that term dates around the country should be staggered. There is hope for parents though, a feature on the ITV website shows that 71 % of teachers believe that parents shouldn’t be fined for taking their children out of school in order to take advantage of reduced holiday prices. Furthermore, 66% of teachers said that they ‘did not believe it has a detrimental effect on learning,’ when a primary school age child accompanies their parents on a short break during term time.
Whats your view on the great debate of time off during term time? I would love to know.
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