I’ve written about this before and it evoked quite an interesting discussion both on here, through my colleagues and friends on Facebook and on Twitter about what should and shouldn’t be allowed as an authorised absence and whether people should be paying these fines introduced under the new government regulations.
Well head teachers’ union NAHT have now released some guidelines that have been drawn up over what is and isn’t allowed, which has allegedly received the backing of current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.
Funerals, weddings and religious events will count as acceptable “exceptional circumstances” but cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the current system had caused confusion among heads. He said the new guidance would also permit time off to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.
Until September 2013, heads in England could grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But now head teachers can grant absence outside school holidays only in “exceptional circumstances”. Mr Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic.”
He said the NAHT guidelines would help identify an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”. But Mr Hobby said pupils should not be given “extended leave” either side of an event.
He said there had been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without approval and not all were holidaymakers.
Last week, the Local Government Association said the new rules do not recognise the complexities of family life and head teachers should be allowed to take a “common-sense approach” to term time holidays. Mr Hobby said: “So what about allowing holidays in term time simply because of the cost? I’m afraid these just don’t fit the bill. It’s not a good enough reason to damage an education. You cannot easily make up the lost learning at home, and falling behind in class can put children at a permanent disadvantage. Those who work in schools share your pain. Many are parents themselves and pay these prices, too. We must tackle this. The government should work with the holiday industry to find a way through.”
Local authorities are obliged to instigate fines and enforce legal proceedings on behalf of schools in cases of unauthorised absences. Parents who take children out of school during term-time can receive automatic penalty notices of £60 per child. This rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents who fail to pay could face prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.
So, it’s clearer now, under family circumstances such as weddings, bereavements and religious events are fine, but taking children out of school just for a cheaper holiday is a no go. So if you want to take your child on holiday, then pay the price for it, like you would for anything else such as food or housing or cars, which don’t just come around for free. Honestly I find it frustrating, people have often said to me ‘oh but look at the experiences they can have in these places and what they can learn.’ My response to that is ‘Yeah, and is that really why they’re going on holiday?’ to which the simple answer is no.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t take your children on holiday, but what I’m saying is don’t bargain with your children’s education just to cut the cost down. You might say ‘well i’ll take the risk and refuse to pay the fine’, but look at the consequences of that. You would have to pay probably more than the saving you made compared to going on holiday out of term time, and face a jail sentence and a criminal record. Is it really worth it? For me, no it isn’t. I mean sure, I’m 22 and don’t have children of my own, but I am of the mindset that if you want something, you pay the money for it. If you can’t afford it, well you don’t get it, simple as that.