25th March 2019
The number of parents in England being fined for taking their kids out of school to go on holiday reaches record numbers, recent statistics show
The school holiday debate rages on as statistics show that school absence fines for families in England are at an all-time high. The number of parents fined for taking their kids out of school to go on holiday has doubled in a year to 223, 000.
The total number of fines for school absences stands at 260,900 for 2017/18, up from 149,300 the previous year and term-time holidays accounted for 85% of these fines. Surprisingly, the actual number of parents taking children out of school has not increased, at 0.5% of all attendance, of which only one in five was unauthorised.
Fines are widespread across the country, but the Isle of Wight, Rochdale and Leicester had the highest rates of absence. No penalties were issued in Suffolk or Cumbria.
The debate around school holiday fines hit the headlines in 2017 after Jon Platt, from the Isle of Wight, took his case to the courts to challenge the law around school absences and holidays. He was fined for taking his daughter out of school during term time to go on holiday to Florida. The Supreme Court ruled against Mr Platt and he lost the case. It is thought that this Supreme Court victory crackdown on school absences is behind the rapid rise in penalties being issued.
Families are hit with a £60 fine, per child, if they take kids out of school during term-time without authorisation, rising to £120 after 21 days. Parents can face prosecution if they do not pay within 28 days.
The law was altered in 2013 so that children could only be taken out of school during term time for ‘exceptional circumstances’. Before this families could freely take kids out of school to go on holiday during term-time. Scotland and Northern Ireland do not issue fines but families are discouraged from taking children out during term time for a holiday. However, families in Wales are still allowed to take 10 days of absence during the school year for a family holiday.
Trips taken during school holidays can cost significantly more. The cost of taking a holiday ramps up over school holidays, often costing up to four times as much as travelling during term time, often making family travel during school holidays difficult or impossible, and prompting families to take children out of school during term-time.
The current system has caused tension between parents and schools, with some parents claiming that the cost of travel during school holidays is prohibitive, or accusing the fines of being excessive. However, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) insists that children should miss ‘as little time at school as possible’, while a spokesman for the Department of Education maintains that no child should not be taken out of school ‘without good reason’.