Holidays In Term Time – The Facts

Holidays In Term Time – The Facts

Back in May last year, we shared the story of Jon Platt, who successfully challenged his council over an £120 charge for taking his 6 year old daughter to Florida during term time. Today, after the Isle of Wight council appealed against that judgement, Jon Platt lost his case in a landmark hearing at the Supreme Court. The Court has now ruled that Jon acted unlawfully taking his daughter out of school during term time, and as such he will be required to pay the fine, or face a jail sentence.

We shared the painful truth of the cost of a family break in the school holidays – with breaks costing between 8% and 99% more during the peak summer period compared to the exact same holiday during term time.

Whilst I completely understand the concept of “demand based pricing” – something surely has to be done!!

So what are the facts now for those with children in school?

Can I take my child on holiday during term time?

Based on today’s decision, the strict answer is No. The Supreme Court have ruled that a parent should not, or even must not, take their child out of school during term time unless given explicit permission under the individual school’s attendance policy. This applies to all children across the whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So if I ask the school, then I can go?

It’s not quite as straight forward as that – you can ask the school for ‘leave of absence’ to take your child out during term time, but unless unavoidable or under a significantly mitigating circumstance, it is unlikely to be accepted. If nothing else, whilst a head teacher maintains some of the ultimate discretion, they have also got to be seen to be acting fairly, and cannot approve every single request they get – for obvious reasons. The National Association of Head Teachers has advised that any absence during term time should be rare, significant, unavoidable and short. In other words, you may be far more likely to get a day or two of term time holiday granted as opposed to a two week break slap bang in the middle of term.

What happens if I just decide to go anyway?

You may see yourself liable for a fine if you take you child out of school for more than 5 days every term as a result of unauthorised holidays. This will vary by your local council’s ruling, but in theory, ANY unauthorised holiday during term time could result in a fine. The initial fine is £60, which can be doubled if not paid within 28 days. Parents should also be aware that failure to pay any fines could result in jail time, as it is a breach of the 1996 Education Act.

The maximum fine in extreme cases would be £2500, a three month jail sentence and other penalties.

But it’s cheaper just to pay the fine, as the fine is far less than the difference in holiday price. What if I just pay up?

Understandably, having seen the difference in prices, many parents would ‘take the risk’ and simply offer to pay the fine if caught out. The number of people doing this in 2015 went up by 21%, but the average fine was just £176. That said, 8 people did go to jail, so not something to be taken lightly.

So what are exceptional circumstances?

Clearly this is open to interpretation. You would need to write to your head teacher outlining your reasons for wanting to take your child out, how many days for, and the dates. There are many people that would argue that their holidays are educational, that their child is learning about languages, history and culture. Is a visit to see elderly relatives abroad exceptional? What about a parent with health problems who would benefit from the cathartic experience of a family trip away from the stress of their treatment at home? The answer is  – there is no set in stone ruling on this.

Sadly, in some cases I have read previously, even a bereavement is not an automatic free pass to a child being taken out of school. I personally find this a little shocking!

What other options do we have?

Some head teachers are becoming quite savvy about this – with one school reportedly moving all their inset days to the end of term, creating an extra week of annual leave that didn’t technically fall into the standard summer holiday period. Whilst this may sound like a perfect solution, regional employers also have to be considered. If a whole city all suddenly wanted the last week in June as annual leave, there would ultimately HR departments declining these requests – a large proportion of their workforce are likely to be families, and lets face it, they still have a business to run!

What’s our view?

Personally I am so disappointed by this ruling, as I was hopeful that the petition last year requesting up to 10 days authorised would be considered. My view is that if your child has a good level of attendance throughout the year, that the odd day of absence here and there would not have a massive impact on their education. I am obviously not a teacher, and I am sure there may be some who disagree, but for me it is all about reasonableness. That lovely vague word.

We are having our last ever family holiday in term time this year before my daughter starts school in September, and it is quite sad to know that I will probably NEVER be able to afford to take the girls to the same standard of holiday again.

Unfortunately the holiday companies appear to be retaining their trump card for now, in that whilst people continue to pay the rocketing prices, there is very little motivation for them to change.

We will be keeping a close eye on the story as it evolves, and share any updates that may cause these findings to change (but I wouldn’t hold your breath!)

 

Lucy x

You Baby Me Mummy
ethannevelyn.com

18 Comments

  1. Muffin top muMmy

    This whole thing upsets me as I fail to understand how someone else can tell you what is best for your child. And what about the home-educated? Or all the ‘fun days’ at school – or even teacher strikes? I went on a 2 week family holiday in term time every year as a child and still got excellent grades, went to uni etc. It’s so unfair that they’re essentially denying children from lower income families a holiday possibly ever. Thank you for sharing this post as it really clarifies what the rules are now #TheListLinky

    Reply
  2. jo

    Thanks for the update and the balanced view.

    I take my children out for 5 days every year. It’s obviously not authorised but I’ve never been fined. I’ll be continuing to do this until they reach secondary school. All the other families we know do it too, as long as you aren’t over 5 days, whilst technically you could be fined in reality it’s highly unlikely . Obviously it may vary by authority. Some of my friends take 2 weeks and still aren’t fined. So if I was you I wouldn’t rule out taking some time off school just yet, but keep it 5 days or under. #TheListLinky

    Reply
  3. Abi - Something About Baby

    I had mixed feelings about this decision yesterday – the fact he lost his case was because he had broken the law, whether that law is correct (or rather fair) or not. So to be honest I didn’t expect the result to go any other way. I also think it would have opened the flood gates for people to take their children out for unnecessary reasons. I have always believe that you shouldn’t take your kids out of school for a bog standard holiday – but maybe that is just because my parents never did it and my mum was really against it. Alfie is not yet of school age, so it’s not something I have to worry about, but I do think it would be good to bring back the 10 days rules. I believe this would make everyone happy!

    Reply
  4. Fiona Cambouropoulos

    As a parent and owner of a holiday business I couldn’t be more disappointed in the Supreme court ruling yesterday. We are really struggling with term time holiday bookings now and it is going to make the gap between term time and august pricing even more extreme next year just to get an even fill of bookings to survive. Thankfully Cornish schools understand the tourist business and we have no issues taking our children out. #FabFridayPost

    Reply
  5. Annette, Four Acorns

    I can’t believe that parents face a fine, and up to jail time, for taking their children out of school during term time! How shocking! This quote from Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, comes to mind – “School should not be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal onto the wider world”, or something to that effect.
    I am grateful to be living in Ireland, where things are more relaxed, thankfully.
    #FabFridayPost

    Reply
  6. Alana - burnished chaos

    I was really hoping the 10 days authorised would be considered too. It seemed like the perfect solution, even if it had to be taken in two 5 day slots instead of all at once. The nature of my husband’s job means he is very often away during the school holidays so trying to get away is a nightmare for us. We recently booked a week at the start of August but now my husband may be being called back to sea early which will affect the times he’s home and we’ll lose our holiday (and all the money to boot). It’s so frustrating.
    #TheListLinky

    Reply
  7. Mum & stuff

    This is our first year dealing with school holidays. I have to say like you I was hugely disappointed by the ruling yesterday. We just have to hope that common sense prevails – those who abuse the system and don’t ensure their kids attend regularly should be punished. Those who take a short break, for educational, health or unavoidable reasons – but otherwise have excellent attendance, should be supported. Thanks for sharing! #TheListLinky

    Reply
  8. Emma

    This story has peed me off so much! Fortunately we’ve just found out the school the kids will be at in September have an inset day which means they won’t miss any school for our wedding, but otherwise we would have had no choice but to risk it and pay a fine if they got one! I think it’s disgusting that schools are allowed to tell us as parents what we can and can’t do, and also that the parents who abide by the rules are being called ‘obedient’ in news stories!! We aren’t bloody dogs!

    Reply
  9. mandy

    This will affect us in a few years time when the little one starts school. Very sad when I heard the family lost the case in yesterdays news. Its silly how expensive holidays are during the summer and how on earth can we all possibly afford it.

    http://www.onesliceoflemon.com

    Reply
  10. Emily and indiana

    I completely agree with you, and can understand why so many take the risk and pay the fine – it still works out so much cheaper! Next year is our last year before we have a school aged child, and I’m dreading the thought of a term time holiday xx

    Reply
  11. Amy

    I’m not looking forward to this when the girls start school. As you say it’s just cheaper to pay the fine! I think travelling could teach a child so much more than a classroom!

    Reply
  12. the frenchie mummy

    I am very much against kids going away during school time. There is enough time off like that and yes one day off might not have much impact on our kids’ education but a whole week is a different story and it puts extra pressure to give work t students (legally they have to if a kid misses school for a long period of time). That is not fair to them. The problem is not the school. This is the ridiculous holiday’s companies for doing such high prices on holidays period. That is where the government should look at and stop giving extra grief to school…My opinion of course but I am biased as I am a teacher…

    Reply
  13. LYNDSAY-ROSE

    While the ruling may have been ‘fair’ it’s the travel agents which will make a fortune out of this.
    There should be fair pricing whatever time of the year

    Reply
  14. The Squirmy Popple

    I think it should really be at the parent’s (and school’s) discretion. I suspect that most people wouldn’t abuse the system – they just want to be able to afford to take a family holiday. #BlogCrush

    Reply
  15. Victoria - Lylia Rose

    I’ve been looking at holidays recently and even just going the Friday before the week off (I’m looking for October) is so much cheaper… it’s tempting! #thelistlinky

    Reply
  16. Lucy At Home

    I agree – it’s really unfair that there seems to be such a hard and fast rule now. I think that school attendance is important, but family time is important too, and there are lots of things that can be learnt much better outside of the classroom. It’s the poorer parents, who can’t afford to go on holiday in school holidays, that are being penalised. #blogcrush

    Reply
  17. Crummy Mummy

    We live in East Sussex where this year they’re trialling a 2 week autumn half term for this very reason. As a working mum I’m not looking forward to it! #thelistlinky

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Lucy, a thirty something mum of two from Birmingham. A memory maker, tradition keeper, stationery addict and Mr Men fanatic. HR Advisor by day and sleep deprived Mama by night!

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