Prosecute the term time holiday parents!

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.

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7 thoughts on “Prosecute the term time holiday parents!

  1. Do you have children? “As a parent, you should know your child’s education is the most important thing” Yes, their education is important, not “the most important” – their health and well-being and respect for others ranks as high as education in my view. No, not their time in school. Education encompasses far more than a set of results. Regarding the Law, it was changed in Sept 2013, without consultation or debate. Circa 70% of the population disagree with the concept of fining parents for family holidays. I suspect that this family refused to pay the fines on principle. I would have done the same. You see, I teach my child to respect rules, laws and education, but educate him enough to understand that their are people who are hell bent on imposing their own ideological views on others. It used to be the case that women did not vote, until people protested. Only recently, has the Law changed to allow gay marriage. Without families like this, who obviously could have just lay down and paid the fine, but instead, chose to bring it to the attention of the public, nothing would ever change. Your view is way out of sync with many parents and many teachers alike. Do your research on evidence of a) extent of term-time holidays b) impact on attainment of term-time holidays c) gow theregulation was introduced.

    1. I don’t support Mr Gove much in any way, but this is where he’s correct. The significance of absenteeism shows that the more the child is absent, the less developed in all areas the child becomes, not just academically. This is also true for breaks in their education for non-educational purposes, such as holidays. I’m not strictly a results person, but in this day and age, you can’t just rely on being upbeat and enthusiastic to get a job or into a degree, results play a part too. I’ve not been in the teaching profession long, but in every class I teach, the ones who are absent the most or taking breaks in their education, are often the ones dropping towards the lower end of the ability scale.

      As for wellbeing and health, that also comes under education during PSHE and Citizenship lessons, albeit not enough in my view as these lessons are often 15 minutes at the start of a school morning and are merely discussion based.

      The thing about this case that is why I wrote about this was because the parent took their child out without permission granted from the head teacher. This is basic procedure. What this actually is in simple terms is truancy, and encouraged by the parents.

      I don’t support how Mr Gove goes about his methods in any way, as a teacher I’ve questioned a lot of how these have been introduced. But the other side of that is of course parents wouldn’t want to be fined for taking their kids out of school for a term-time holiday, who would? What parent is going to say ‘oh sure, I’d love to be fined, would give me some street cred’? I would hope noone …

      It is very easy to be bashing Mr Gove with a metaphorical sledgehammer over every single thing he does, but even a man as bone idle as him can’t be wrong 100% of the time, for me this is one of the few things he’s right on.

      If you want to take your child on holiday, do it when it’s a school holiday, hence why it’s called ‘school holiday’, the clue is in the name.

  2. “The significance of absenteeism shows that the more the child is absent, the less developed in all areas the child becomes, not just academically.” Evidence? Never read that anywhere before. The only evidence I have read is that children achieving absence levels of x% achieved x gcses.grades x to x. Hardly a robust measure. In a research paper from the DfE 2010, which analysed absence v attainment but went as far as different types of absence, it indicates that holiday absence does NOT impact KS2 results.

    “This is also true for breaks in their education for non-educational purposes, such as holidays.”

    You seem to misunderstand the meaning of the word “education” Children never have a break in their education, they are learning all the time, indeed adults are too. You are confusing an education with attendance at school.

    Parents are against fines, because they want to operate,both for the best interests of their child and within the Law. In this instance, the Law is unreasonable. Whilst as a teacher, your focus might be attendance stats, as a parent, my focus is my child, who I know better than anyone. A head can not make a reasoned judgement under the new law, about what is in the best interest of the child, the Law points them primarily to a No answer. The previous regulations were not ideal, but we did not see this level of unreasonableness in the decisions being made.

    If only life was as simple as your solution, “do it in the school holiday” This is a very naive comment. Parents can not determine when relatives are ill, parents can not get time off work, parents can not determine when a family crisis occurs. some, parents can not afford holidays in school holidays. I was unable to ask the surgeon to ensure that my husband’s operation for esophagus cancer following 3 months of chemo could be scheduled so that we could ensure family break out of term-time prior to the op. I was unable to schedule my dad’s treatment for pancreatic cancer so that our one last holiday together fell in tune with school holidays. Now, people will say, these should be exceptional circumstances, however we are hearing of cases where 90% of people would agree, but Heads are refusing the Leave. If you can not see why this new law is so wrong, then I give up debating with you,
    however I will never give up campaigning for this regulation to changed. Fortunately opinion polls and many comments on articles I have read on the subject, demonstrate that the majority of people, including teachers seem to agree with me.

    By the way, personally, I would describe Mr Gove as arrogant, ideological, but not bone idle.

  3. Going on holiday in the official school holidays is not always possible, or might be more difficult – the cost is higher, it might be impossible given the parents’ work situation, and so on.

    What if your student has the opportunity to go to Rome or Paris or Tokyo in the term-time? Isn’t that a great bonus for their education? No matter how good we are as teachers, we can’t give them the experiences and education that comes from wide travel.

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