Are you going on a family holiday before schools break up for summer on July 21?
- Credit: Getty Images/Hemera
With children counting down the days before schools break up for the summer, we are asking parents in Suffolk and Essex if they are taking their children out of school early for a family summer holiday.
In April, a father lost a landmark legal battle at the UK’s highest court over taking his daughter to Disney World during school term-time.
The ruling means parents could face a fine or prosecution if they take their children out of school for even half a day without permission.
Suffolk and Essex parents reacted with mixed views against the decision. Some argued they cannot take time off work during the school holiday due to the nature of their job and allowing other parents to book a holiday instead, while some say children need to be taught the importance of responsibility and remain in school.
• Five Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled against father Jon Platt who took his daughter to Disney World during school term-time in a decision which will have a major impact on schools and parents across the country.
In a judgment clarifying what “regular” attendance at school means, they allowed an appeal by Isle of Wight education chiefs against an earlier ruling that Mr Platt had not acted unlawfully.
The panel of judges, including the court’s president Lord Neuberger, declared Parliament’s intention was that the word “regularly” means “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school”.
This effectively means mothers and fathers should not take their child out of lessons at any point without the headteacher’s approval.
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What are the fines?
There has long been controversy about children being taken out of school for holidays.
Headteachers can only permit term-time absences in “exceptional circumstances”.
Before this Government revamp in September 2013, imposed by former education secretary Michael Gove to improve attendance rates, headteachers were able to grant pupil absences for up to 10 days a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”.
If parents take their children out of school without permission, they risk receiving a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if paid after 21 days.
If they do not pay the fine after 28 days, they may be prosecuted for their child’s absence from school, and could be fined up to £2,500 or receive a jail sentence of three months.
Opponents argue poor households struggle to pay for expensive summer holidays as firms put up prices.
This newspaper found that the same family-of-four holiday to Egypt for a week rose by 76% between February and August, from £1,558 to £2,740.
During Mr Platt’s high-profile legal case, some councils have suspended the fines due to uncertainty about the legal situation. Others have sought gagging orders to stop parents publicising their stories. There is also conflicting evidence on whether term-time holidays affect exam results.
Ministers have argued that every day of school that a child misses can affect their GCSE results.