The subject of term time holidays for families has been BIG news lately.
This is primarily thanks to a recent court case covered in the media about a parent defending his right to take his child out of school during term time to go on a family holiday. He refused to pay the fine imposed by his local council, and was initially victorious in court. However in a cruel twist, the supreme court later overturned the verdict, upholding the ban on term-time travel.
It was so close…
Term time holidays account for as much as 25% of unauthorised absences from schools in England . However, the Department for Education states that unauthorised absences damage children’s life chances.
To help reduce the problem of unauthorised absence, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) were given the power to fine parents for removing their child from school during term time.
The best way to decide whether to take your kids on a term time holiday is to understand the rules.
You know the rules, and so does Rick.
So where do we legally stand? Can we take our children on a term time holiday?
A Supreme Court judgement in April 2017 has confirmed that currently, parents in England can’t take children who are in a state school on term-time holidays without the risk of being fined. However, if you are in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, the rules are slightly different.
In Wales, headteachers still have the power to authorise up to 10 days’ absence per child. This means that parents can apply to their kid’s school for authorisation for a term time holiday, which may be granted at the discretion of their headteacher. If it is unapproved, parents may still be fined.
In Scotland, there is no fine at all. However, LEAs can issue an Attendance Order, which demand a parent to explain their children’s absence. If they fail to comply, or don’t give a reasonable excuse, they could be fined and even jailed.
In Northern Ireland, parents can’t be fined unless their child’s absence falls below 85%. If this happens, they may be referred to the Education Welfare Service. Fair enough, eh?
Private schools do not have to follow these rules and parents will not be fined or face court action. So check with individual schools what their policy is regarding term time holidays.
How much can I expect to pay in fines if I choose to take my children out of school in term time anyway?
Headteachers are obliged to report all absences – authorised and unauthorised – to their LEA, who then make the decision whether to fine parents.
These fines start at £60 per child per absence – so if you are a large family costs can quickly start to add up. In theory, this fee can also be applied per parent (so if you are a two-parent family you could expect to be fined £120 per child per absence). Bet ya didn’t know that!
Bear it mind that if you don’t pay the fine within 21 days, it doubles, and if you still fail to pay then you could be taken to the magistrate’s court under the Education Act 1996. Penalties at this stage vary from fines of up to £2500 plus court costs to short jail terms. Yikes.
Not laughing any more, huh?
Tips for getting the best deal on a non-term-time holiday
For many parents, a getaway is unaffordable during the school holidays. However, there are a few ways to reduce the cost of your dream holiday and get it within budget.
Make the most of inset days
Inset days usually fall in term time and so flights, or holidays that start on these days, are often cheaper. Find out your school’s inset days early and play around with dates to see if you can secure a better deal.
Book separately and direct
If you are looking at going abroad, it can be tempting to book through a travel agent who will organise your flights, transfers and hotel in one package.
However, it’s often cheaper to book each element of the holiday separately. One of the team here at PTAsocial did this recently and saved over £1000!
Join loyalty schemes
If you like to go back to the same hotel year after year then it is worth seeing if they have a loyalty scheme. This could secure you a reasonable discount.
Consider different holiday durations
Most people choose a 7, 10 or 14-night break when they take a holiday. Although changing these durations might not be possible for all types of break, flight prices can vary considerably from day to day, whereas hotel costs are often relatively consistent. Playing around with different length stays can help you to bag a bargain on your travel.
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