The debate on whether or not it is acceptable to take your child out of school outside of the holiday period is one that has been going for many years.
However, recent events seem to have created a precedence for parents to take their children out of school during term time without the fear of being fined.
Jon Platt recently won his case at the High Court after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Disney World Resort in Florida.
After a year battling in the courts his lawyers were able to successfully argue that because his daughter’s overall attendance for that year was high enough that a seven-day holiday did not count as failing to regularly attend and he was therefore not required to pay the fine.
It is understandable that many cash-strapped families can only afford to go on holiday during term time as flights and accommodation are considerably cheaper. I have met many people who have said that taking a child out of school is acceptable as long as their overall attendance is high enough, and this is something that I partially agree with.
When I was at school I can remember the last few weeks of the summer term were spent playing sport outside and watching films and playing games.
I take the view that if your child is not undertaking proper learning which is beneficial to their grades and education as a whole during the final couple of weeks of a school year then it is acceptable to take them on holiday.
They would learn a great deal more, for example, it gives them the opportunity to experience a different country and its culture.
Since the draconian measures brought in by the then Education Minister Michael Gove in 2013 the number of fines paid by parents for unauthorised absences has totalled over £5 million and many have said that the government and local councils aren’t sympathetic enough to the struggles of modern family life.
In an article for the Stoke Sentinel, a spokesmen for the Local Government Association said that there must be a common sense approach.
“It is clear that the current system does not always favour families, especially those that are struggling to meet the demands of modern life or have unconventional work commitments”, he said.
“While councils fully support the Department for Education’s stance on every child being in school every day, there are occasions when parental requests should be given individual consideration.”
The Department of Education, however, stands by the penalties that they impose on parents explaining the consequences of children missing school.
A DfE spokesman said: “Our evidence shows missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances.”
Whilst I can appreciate the Department of Education wanting children to attend school every day, it strikes me and many others as ridiculous that a fine should be imposed before looking at each particular case of unauthorised absence individually to establish whether the fine is appropriate in the first place.
As Jon Platt showed in his high court battle, if a child’s grades are meeting the standards required and their overall attendance is very high then common sense says a fine should not be imposed.
James Elliott — Teachers Register Contributor