A mum and dad have shared their frustration after being slapped with a whopping £480 fine for taking their children on holiday in term time.
Paul Benson said the current system of dishing out financial penalties was ‘unfair’ and holidays away during term time were ‘significantly cheaper’. Another parent Gemma Dunmore, said the price of holidays when children were off was “extortionate”.
Redcar and Cleveland Council said it would review the current criteria for issuing fines, reports Yorkshire Live, and explore other solutions following their case.
Mr Benson and his wife Jessica took their children, Ruby and George, who attend Newcomen Primary School, to Florida twice previously, being fined £240 on each occasion. He said he was warned before the last trip, in September, it would have a detrimental effect on one of their youngsters’ education.
Mr Benson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “My wife is a hospital theatre nurse who worked during the Covid crisis and they have a massive backlog of operations they are doing at the moment and it is difficult for us to get time off when we can all go together.
“It’s not like they are truant students, they might have had a two-week holiday and two or three sick days. It’s significantly cheaper to go outside term time. A family of four like us to go to Florida during the summer holidays – we’d never be able to afford it.
“To go in August you can be looking at twelve grand, but then a week or two later in September its £3,700, so you think: ‘Well we’ll take the fine’.
“If you can’t afford to go during the holidays, you are penalised for it, that’s how it makes you feel.”
Mr Benson, who works in events and hospitality, confessed he and his wife were in two minds about whether to do the same again after they were warned about their children’s attendance.
He added: “Some parents may be on a higher income and be able to afford the inflated prices during the summer holidays. But I work hard full-time and my wife works for the NHS so why can’t we have that entitlement to go on a holiday?
“We seem to be one of the few countries in the world that has this system [of fines], it seems unfair, and should be properly approached on a case-by-case basis.
“If you are taking the mick with poor attendance to start with, maybe you shouldn’t be granted that holiday, but if you are not abusing the system you should be entitled to take a family holiday when you want without being fined. It’s a time to bond and for children to learn new life skills.”
Figures show that the amount of fines issued in Redcar and Cleveland for school term-time absences fell substantially during the coronavirus pandemic because of virus-related restrictions, in line with other parts of the country. In 2021/22 £12,941 worth of fines were issued in the borough – compared to approximately £57,000 in 2019/20.
But post pandemic the annual fine total has leapt by 257 per cent, coinciding with an increased number of term-time holidays that parents have communicated to schools, to £46,235 in 2022/23.
Department for Education guidance means local councils have to draw up and publish a code of conduct for issuing fines for non-attendance to be adhered to by schools, local authority officers and the police.