Families hoping to save cash by going on holiday before the schools break up for summer could collectively face millions of pounds worth of fines, according to new research.
In the last academic year (2014/15), parents in England and Wales were fined an estimated £5.6million for unauthorised holiday absence, a Freedom of Information request by Santander reveals.
Lancashire County Council reportedly issued the most fines at 4,279, followed by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council at 3,559, and Bradford Metropolitan Council at 3,445.
Santander says the findings are unsurprising given parents planning an overseas break during the school summer holidays face premiums of up to 68% in some instances, equivalent to an extra £1,771.
What are the rules when taking kids out of school in term-time?
- In England parents can be fined £60 per parent per child per period of absence, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents can appeal the fine but if it’s not paid within 28 days, they risk being prosecuted. If prosecuted, parents could be fined up to £2,500 and/or receive a community order or a jail sentence up to three months.
- In Northern Ireland, each parent could be fined up to £1,000 for each child, or be prosecuted.
- In Scotland, schools won’t normally give permission to take pupils out of school for holidays. If you do, it will be recorded as an unauthorised absence. It is up to education authorities to decide what sanctions they will use. Parents can face a fine of up to £1000, or one month’s imprisonment, or both.
- In Wales, schools have a discretionary power to authorise up to 10 days absence during a school year for family holidays during term time if it is felt necessary. However, you can be fined if you take your children out of school without the school’s permission.
Hold on, wasn’t there a court case on this?
Yes, on 13 May, John Platt from the Isle of Wight won his case at the High Court in relation to taking his daughter out of school during term-time. He argued that she had a high school attendance prior to the holiday.
However, the Isle of Wight Council submitted an application to appeal the decision on 9 June, and the High Court has since granted a certificate that a point of law of general public importance is involved in this decision, and an application is to be made to the higher Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal the case to it.
The Government still stands by its position that children shouldn’t be taken out of school for holidays.
A Department for Education spokesperson says: “We continue to support the Isle of Wight Council in the process of appealing the judgement of 13 May.
“The rules are perfectly clear – children should not be taken out of school without good reason. That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence.
“The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances – vindicating our strong stance on attendance. A child who is absent also impacts teachers, whose planning of lessons is disrupted by children missing large portions of teaching.”