Many of us followed the case of Jon Platt, an Isle of Wight businessman, who was fined £60 in 2015 for taking his daughter on a week long term-time holiday. He refused to pay the fine and has since been fighting the case through the courts. The final verdict was given on 6th April, where the Supreme Court ruled against the legality of term-time holidays.
The main reason for parents taking their children out of school during term time is usually to do with cost. Flights and holidays are at their cheapest when demand is low – the higher the demand (peak holiday periods coincide with school holidays), the higher the prices tend to be. A new study by insurance specialists, Holidaysafe, found that 55 per cent of parents feel a term-time holiday is the only option for an affordable family holiday. Amber Howard of Holidaysafe said, “We have polled our customers on this issue and found that 55 per cent of parents feel that term-time holidays are their only option for an affordable family holiday, while 22 per cent are prepared to take their children out of school early and risk a fine.” Figures show that the number of fines given out have nearly trebled over the past two years.
Recent research has also found that families are paying more than twice as much to go away during the school holidays as they would if they took off during term time.
Looking at many social media conversations about this subject, it’s clear too me that very many parents feel the same. Some teachers too support a change in policy. Many teachers are parents, some on a wage where they struggle to provide holidays for their own children As a teacher myself, I can also see the problems that other parents go through to have any quality time together. Many working parents only get to see their children at the weekends and for a couple of hours at night and then can’t afford to take them on holiday when their children are off.
The government, of course, takes a very different stance on this. On 24th March 2016 a report, published by the Department of Education, found that:
- “Missing school for just a few days a year can damage pupils’ chances of gaining good GCSEs.”
- They state that new research shows that overall absence had a negative link to attainment, with every extra day missed associated with a lower chance of achieving 5 or more good GCSEs or equivalent at grades A* to C including in English and mathematics, or gaining the gold standard English Baccalaureate (EBacc).
It is a complex issue – schools are also required by Ofsted to make attendance a priority, but a balance must be found.
So is there a solution to this? I live on the south coast where Brighton and Hove council is now looking at options such as:
- reducing the six-week summer break
- giving pupils a ‘stand-alone week’ at a time when holidays are less expensive.
- grouping INSET days so that families can go away for a long weekend, or even a week, at cheaper times of the year
Brighton and Hove’s chairman, Tom Bewick said: “If there is something we can do to offer lower-income families in particular the chance to take holidays, that would otherwise be unaffordable, then I think it’s worth exploring. Being able to take a cheap family holiday in March, for example, would make a huge difference to thousands of local people including, of course, our teachers.”
This is a really sensible move by the council, looking for possible solutions for all, instead of the “this is how it’s always been done” mentality, that doesn’t help anyone.
So, to make things clear for parents:
What are the rules about term-time holidays?
- You can only allow your child to miss school if they are ill, or if you have been given advanced permission from the school
- To get permission from the school you have to make an application to the head teacher in advance. They will decide whether to grant your request or not
- Before the new ruling, head teachers were able to grant 10 days of authorised absence. Now they are unable to grant any, except in really exceptional circumstances (bereavement/illness, etc.)
- If you take your child out of school without permission, you risk being given a fine of £60, this rises to £120 if paid after 21 days
- If you don’t pay the fine after 28 days, you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school, and you could be fined up to £2,500, or receive a jail sentence of three months
Information is from www.gov.uk
Let’s hope more local authorities look for solutions to this problem, promoting the value of education and attendance alongside the importance of quality family time, wellbeing and real world learning experiences.