UK

Unhappy parents criticise holiday fines

Hayley and her daughter Ruby Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Hayley and her six-year-old daughter Ruby, whose surname we have chosen not to use

Would you take your children out of school during term-time?

The Supreme Court has ruled against a father who took his daughter on an unauthorised term-time break.

But between travel companies' elevated school holiday prices and the need to juggle work commitments, some parents say they cannot always go away during the school holidays and that it should be their decision to make.

Hayley, 39, says she is "fuming" at the ruling.

Together with her husband Martin, the couple, from Cheshire, took their children Archie, aged five, and Ruby, six, out of school in January to attend a family wedding in India.

As Archie was under five at the time, his absence did not cause problems. But Ruby's did.

Not long after they returned, letters arrived from the local council to inform them that they were being fined a total of £120.

"I'm not going to pay it," she said. "They basically brandish you a criminal."

Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Ruby and Archie, five, on holiday in India.

Hayley had asked the school for permission but says she never received a reply.

"Why should you be dictated to?" she said.

"It's made no difference to Ruby. She's never missed anything important.

"India was such a different country to go to. It taught them things. It was such a good experience."

Hayley is frustrated by what she sees as inconsistencies in the enforcement of the rules.

"Some children have a really bad attendance but don't get fined. Ruby's attendance was close to 100%.

"We took work on the plane and I encouraged her to do writing and reading while we were away."

Image copyright Family photograph
Image caption Marcus (left) with his sons Harry and Samuel and partner Laura.

There has been criticism that the rule does not allow enough discretion for people's individual circumstances.

Marcus, 41, has a very good reason for not being able to take his children away during school holidays - it is his job to refurbish schools while the pupils are away.

"You need to spend time with your children. Just saying no is unrealistic for people," he said.

"I haven't been able to go away during the summer break since my children were born." Harry, his eldest, is nine and Samuel is five.

With his partner Laura, Marcus took his children out of school for two weeks in October to visit Disney World in Florida.

"It was a very special one," he said. "The memories will last for a lifetime.

"They swam with dolphins and Harry came back with loads of knowledge about dolphins."

Image copyright Family photograph

But the school recorded the absence as unauthorised leave and Marcus is worried they may now be fined.

"They sympathised with my situation but said that they could not risk getting into trouble authorising it," he said.

"My children have high attendance rates and I understand the need to prevent unnecessary absence, but if you make the children do a diary and read while on holiday then I honestly do not see the harm going during term-time."

Though the Supreme Court ruling might make Marcus think twice about taking his children out of school to go on holiday, he does not think it would stop him.

"I feel I deserve time with my children away from work, school and day-to-day pressures.

"I feel holidays provide this space to relax and enjoy time together, to explore other countries, cultures and ways of life.

"I do not feel that taking time out is jeopardising my children's education, if anything it brings greater variety to it."

Chris Bell, UGC and Social News team

More on this story