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Getting a Fine For a Term-Time Holiday? In England It's More Than Possible


term-time holidayA news piece that has recently caught the eye of a lot of journalists and media proves that the aftermath of taking your children on holiday during the school term can be more troublesome than the kids-marked holiday itself. Stuart and Natasha Sutherland were recently fined £630 for taking their children for a week-long holiday in Greece during the school term. Subsequently, the father of the family who liked vacationing too much, has sued the English government for imposing “inflexible” holiday rules on headteachers.

At the Court for Having a Holiday

The couple told the magistrates of the Shropshire town that their professional commitments had not allowed them to take a holiday during the official summer break. Admitting the fair attitude of the headteachers, who made it clear that they cannot authorize the family's Greek holiday, Sautherland  says: “Unfortunately, just because I could not get time off, that doesn't fall into their category, so the school was unable to authorize the holiday request.” His wife, Natasha, told the following to Daybreak: “Obviously we have got to pay the fine, that's the outcome of it. But at least we have stood up for what we believed was right.”

The Value of School Attendance

An interesting response came from a headteacher of one of London's schools, Serge Cefai, who told  the program that he supports the new rules that bar headteachers from granting absence with no special circumstances involved. “This is a huge issue for me – kids must come to school and we must all work together to make sure we maximize the outcomes for our kids,” he said. It's worth noting that the fine amount for these kinds of parent offenses has recently been increased to back up the school attendance.

The Department of Education has a voice in this discussion too. “Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent,” says its spokesman.

Social Reactions Problematize the Issue Even Further

In a recent poll at the Guardian, the question of whether parents should be fined for taking their children on holiday during the term and therefore with no authorization, was met with a fervent response. 32% of the readers responded positively, to the 68% of negative answers. There were moderate voices saying that parents should not be fined, but at the same time they shouldn't take their kids out of school for holidays if they can manage it.

Another kind of response emphasized a very important, and yet overlooked fact in the debate – the poorer families that will lose most in this game, since the summer holiday season boosts the vacation prices. Those might even be prevented from enjoying their free time on a trip that they can afford only during the school term. Even though the Department of Education makes it clear that “Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday, because this is a criminal offense and when doing so they are always risking prosecution,” it's very likely that rich families, some say, will take their children off school anyway and pay the fine without a blink of the eye.

A different, but similarly relevant response foregrounded the radical difference between cutting out one week of primary school and the same time off the period before the GCSE tests. The considerable difference between the schoolwork lost in these two cases, together with the problem of poor families affording their holidays mentioned above, demonstrates that the English law should be worked on to include the kind of aspects of life that are not usually considered as relevant to the case.