School holiday crackdown


- Credit: Archant

SCHOOLS will soon be clamping down even harder on parents who take their children out of class for a holiday.

New Government regulations are set to come into force in September which will mean a child will only be allowed to miss school in ‘exceptional’ circumstances, for example if they have a family member in the armed forces.

The drive to improve attendance rates will mean headteachers will lose their current power to sanction up to two weeks of authorised absence for a family holiday during term time, apart from when such exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.

If children are taken on holiday during term time, their parents could be fined £60 each. This will have to be paid within 21 days before it rises to £120 each after 28 days.

If the fine is not paid, the parents could be prosecuted.

North Somerset Council has sent leaflets out to all schools to inform parents of the changes.

John Tate, whose two sons attend Flax Bourton primary and Backwell junior schools, has for the past few years taken his family on holiday during the last two or three days of term in May and October.

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This is due to the fact holidaying during term time can be hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of pounds cheaper than in the school break.

The Backwell father said: “We do it at the end of term when they are winding down.

“Both our children are doing well at school so we do not think it is a problem and we also believe you give them extra by going abroad so they can experience things like foreign languages and food.

“We have met other families on holiday who have been fined but they say it is still cheaper than paying for a holiday out of term time.”

A North Somerset Council spokesman has confirmed it will be down to individual schools to decide how rigidly they follow the new rules.

Backwell School headteacher Julian Baldwin believes the amendments reinforce what schools already do to discourage parents from taking their children out of school for a holiday.

He said: “It is absolutely right we should work with parents to eliminate unnecessary absence because it can have a big negative impact on a child’s learning.

“A 90 per cent attendance record sounds really good but that means the student is off half a day per week. Over the five years of secondary school that adds up to six months.

“The temptation for some parents will be to ignore the rules or to give another reason for their child’s absence.

“The sad thing is that will impact on the child’s learning.

“Schools need to be able to demonstrate to Ofsted they are taking a firm line on holiday absence.

“If fines are given out that is the responsibility of the parents.”