More parents given fines for taking children out of school for holidays
09:25 25 July 2014
The number of parents being fined for taking their children out of school in term-time is on the rise, with 119 more fixed penalty notices issued across the region than last year.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the number of parents fined in Norfolk has risen from 98 last year to 145 this year, from 28 to 99 in Cambridgeshire and from 215 to 216 in Suffolk.
Nationally, a study has revealed a 70% increase in fines.
The number of parents prosecuted for not paying these fines has also increased, from 24 to 36 in Norfolk, one to 13 in Cambridgeshire and 53 to 58 and counting in Suffolk.
Money made by the councils in fines this year totals £6,780 in Suffolk, £5,760 in Norfolk and £5,420 in Cambridgeshire.
Parents in the region have hit back at the fines, saying it is unfair for people who work and are often unable to take time off during the school holidays.
And others say they are prepared to pay the fines because they are cheaper than the cost of a holiday in peak season.
Parent Joanna Gorringe said: “I took all three of mine out for a family holiday at the beginning of June. All unauthorised. But it was £3,500 cheaper to go when we did than it would have been if we went the week before, which was May half-term.
“They lived a different culture for the week and that in itself is a lesson the schools cannot ever teach them. I am awaiting the fine for all three.”
But some were keen to point out the blame should not lie with teachers or schools.
Mother Nerys Wakely said: “I don’t agree with fining parents for taking their children out of school during term-time to have invaluable family time, but we must remember that the blame does not lie at the teachers’ door. We should be looking at the government, which implemented this rule in the first place.
“I am sure the headteachers and teachers of every school in the country know the importance of family time, as they themselves have to take their holidays in the school holidays too, therefore facing the same restrictions as us parents.”
Parents in England and Wales have a legal reponsibility to make sure their child goes to school, unless they are home educating them. Failure to do so means they are committing an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.
Previously, headteachers were able to grant up to 10 days of leave each year for family holidays in special circumstances, but they are now unable to grant any absence in term time, except under exceptional circumstances.
Val Creasy, attendance and exclusions strategy manager at Norfolk County Council said: “There’s a link between attendance at school and attainment. Research has shown that often children do not catch up on work that they miss when they are away and this can have serious consequences for their learning and improvement.
“The government is very clear that all schools must aim to have the highest attendance possible for all their pupils in order for them to achieve their maximum potential.”
But the National Union of Teachers said fining parents was not the solution.
“Children do need to be in school during term time,” said a union spokesman.
“We do, however, sympathise with parents and carers about the increased costs of breaks during school holiday periods. However, fining parents is not the solution.
“Rather than encouraging parents to take their children out of school it would be more helpful for companies not to increase their costs during the school holiday period.”
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