I never thought I would say this, but I agree with one of Michael Gove’s actions: prosecuting parents who take their children out of school during term time to go on holidays.
Two parents have been given criminal records after being prosecuted for taking their children out of school to visit relatives in Australia amid a growing backlash over new rules on term time holidays. The pair were handed conditional discharges at Nuneaton Magistrates Court under the Government’s new law against breaks during the academic year.
Speaking outside court, one of the parents branded the rules “flawed” and insisted the time had come for a major legal review. Being brutally honest, I don’t really see how it’s flawed. Children’s learning is vital and any major breaks in their learning could disrupt their development.
The couple from Coventry, who have not been named, insisted their family had been “suffering emotionally” at the time of the holiday and the break had been needed for the children’s sake.
It is the latest in a series of challenges against Michael Gove’s crackdown on parents who take children out school during term time. Last month, it emerged that a city banker was to fight a test case over the rules after being was summonsed to court over his refusal to pay a £120 fine. He had taken his children to America for six days for a memorial service for their great-grandfather.
More than 200,000 people have also signed a petition backing a group of parents who are seeking a judicial review of the rules, which they claim are a breach of the human right to family life. But the Education Secretary has refused to cave in over the change, insisting all children should spend the maximum amount of time in school. Under new guidance issued to schools across England, heads are prevented from giving parents up to 10 days discretionary leave during term time, apart from “exceptional circumstances” such as family bereavement. It has been backed up with tougher fines for families who condone truancy.
Families can be hauled before the courts for failing to pay and large numbers of parents have already been prosecuted. Some councils have reported a doubling in the number of prosecutions this academic year compared with 2012/13 – before the rules were introduced.
Last year, a couple from Telford were fined £630 and ordered to pay £300 court costs after taking their children on a week-long break in Greece during the school term. In the latest case, the mother was convicted following a trial and given a 12-month conditional discharge. The father, who later changed his plea to guilty, was handed a 10-month conditional discharge. The mother told the court that her family had been “suffering emotionally” at the time and that they had been visiting relatives in Australia. “The magistrates gave the fairest verdict they could under the current laws, which are flawed,” she said. “I fully support any campaign to call for a judicial review. I still feel I did the right thing for my children at the right time.”
Coventry City Council told magistrates that the only legal justification for children of compulsory school age being absent during term time was “for sickness or an unavoidable cause”. The pupils’ head teacher had refused to give permission for the absence. The couple were issued with a £240 fine on their return from holiday in October, which they did not pay.
I am sorry, but I question the parents’ decision making here. The law is very clear on what is allowed for an absence, and going on holiday to Australia is not one of them. The head teacher refused permission for the absence and thus you took your child out of school unauthorised and illegally. As a parent, you should know your child’s education is the most important thing, and disrupting that child’s education could cause more long term effects.
Honestly, I have a lot of sympathy for suffering emotionally, believe you me I know a lot about that in my 22 years of existence. But that is not an excuse for taking unauthorised absence. I’m all for taking a necessary absence, but there are procedures to follow and if you fail to follow those procedures, you are justified in being fined and should be forced to pay it. If you are in desperate need of a holiday, you have 2 weeks of Easter break, a few weeks of half term holidays dotted around the year, Christmas and at least 6 weeks of summer for holidays. If you want a holiday, go then, avoid the unnecessary fines and the need to whine at the government when you get rightly penalised.