FAMILY: Should parents take children on holiday in term time?

This Is Wiltshire: The higher cost of family holidays during school holidays is a big issue for many parents The higher cost of family holidays during school holidays is a big issue for many parents

A subject which has exercised much debate among parents over the last week or so is taking holidays during term time, writes FIONA SCOTT.

This was brought into the spotlight again when a couple from Shropshire were fined more than £900 for taking their three children out of school for a week’s holiday when the two schools concerned would not authorise that absence.

The couple, Stewart and Natasha Sutherland, believed their circumstances were exceptional as Stewart is a Ministry of Defence guard and is not able to take leave easily during school holidays.

However, they were fined, refused to pay the fine, and had their day in court. They admitted the offence and will be paying back the court fine at the rate of £40 a month.

This is a difficult issue for parents and I’ve heard many views.

Arguments include – it’s penalising responsible parents, it’s discriminating against single parents or those families on low income, and parents can best judge a child’s needs.

On the other hand, I’ve also heard – it’s selfish to take your child away during term time, education is the most important gift for your child, a week away does make a big difference, particularly if your child struggles academically.

However, one former teacher told me: “I never worried if children were taken out of school.

"They learn life skills of a different kind when on holiday with their family and could always keep a diary with photos if the school are worried.”

There are some facts to consider:

  • Taking a holiday in term time is not a parental right in law.
  • Unauthorised absence figures directly affect a school’s Ofsted status.
  • There are exceptions to the rule – missing school for religious observance (a code R absence) must not be treated as unauthorised absence.

I’m torn on this having had children within the state school system for 15 years. I have once taken my children out of school for four days tacked on to a half term when we had the opportunity of a family holiday overseas.

This was before the new, more stringent rules but I still had to make my case in writing. Do I regret it? No, it was the best family holiday we have had and we often talk about fondly.

However, the higher cost of family holidays during school time is a big issue for many parents. The fines are often far lower than the more expensive holiday, even if you’ve got more than one child.

My top tip: book as early as you can and pay a deposit today.

Comments (3)

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6:30pm Mon 27 Jan 14

Phoenix99 says...

Allow 5-10 days authorised absence during the year which has to be taken in one go. Any work/homework could then be completed in the childs own time before or after the absence.
Allow 5-10 days authorised absence during the year which has to be taken in one go. Any work/homework could then be completed in the childs own time before or after the absence. Phoenix99
  • Score: 4

7:28pm Mon 27 Jan 14

redrum says...

During most of the week prior to a half term, these are spent watching films and doing very little work. Holidays can be more educational than a week of school at certain times of the year, or maybe the ten teacher training days could be put together rather than spread over the year so we could holiday then. The days schools close for a few flakes of snow and the kids have no work to do then. Stop the unreasonable price hikes in the holidays and problem sorted. Perhaps we should charge teachers for childminding fees on strike days as well that interrupt my child's education.
During most of the week prior to a half term, these are spent watching films and doing very little work. Holidays can be more educational than a week of school at certain times of the year, or maybe the ten teacher training days could be put together rather than spread over the year so we could holiday then. The days schools close for a few flakes of snow and the kids have no work to do then. Stop the unreasonable price hikes in the holidays and problem sorted. Perhaps we should charge teachers for childminding fees on strike days as well that interrupt my child's education. redrum
  • Score: 5

11:28am Tue 28 Jan 14

moaningminnie76 says...

I resent being fined (& have been in the past) for taking my child out of school for a family holiday.

My child is rarely off sick (less than 5 days in 6 years of school), is never late, never in trouble and is not struggling academically.

I believe my child gains a wealth of knowledge & experiences from holidays with us. My child has learnt about the history of her visiting country, their culture, religion even differences in food and economy as well as social skills by making friends and new experiences like scuba diving.

The quality of teaching at some schools leave a little to be desired, for example my child (primary level) is repeating topics she studied last year, her homework is never marked or returned to her, there are no life skills included and subjects my child excels her needs are not met in terms of teaching as they have to teach to the majority.

I can whole-heartly say my child benefits in many many ways from holiday (whether they fall in term time or not) I will not be detered from taking my child out of school if I believe it is beneficial.
I resent being fined (& have been in the past) for taking my child out of school for a family holiday. My child is rarely off sick (less than 5 days in 6 years of school), is never late, never in trouble and is not struggling academically. I believe my child gains a wealth of knowledge & experiences from holidays with us. My child has learnt about the history of her visiting country, their culture, religion even differences in food and economy as well as social skills by making friends and new experiences like scuba diving. The quality of teaching at some schools leave a little to be desired, for example my child (primary level) is repeating topics she studied last year, her homework is never marked or returned to her, there are no life skills included and subjects my child excels her needs are not met in terms of teaching as they have to teach to the majority. I can whole-heartly say my child benefits in many many ways from holiday (whether they fall in term time or not) I will not be detered from taking my child out of school if I believe it is beneficial. moaningminnie76
  • Score: 2

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