There’s nothing better than taking a relaxing family break, an escape from everyday life and a reward for all your hard work, but is it right to take your kids out of school during term to do so?
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The government doesn’t think so, and they are going so far as to fine parents who choose to remove their children from class to take a holiday, something which Emma and Joe Clarke have experienced firsthand.
The Clarkes took their two sons, 8-year-old Alfie and 6-year-old Freddie, to Majorca for five days last September, only to return to find that they had been fined £240 for doing so, Metro reports.
New rules on term-time holidays were introduced in 2013 in an effort to crack down on school absence. If an absence is not authorised, it can result in a fine of £60 per child, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. And in extreme circumstances, the parent can face prosecution, with a jail sentence of up to three months and a maximum fine of £2,500.
You can understand the school’s point of view here: They are ultimately concerned with pupils’ education and don’t want them to fall behind or miss out on anything valuable, but then you can also sympathise with the parents, because it’s so much more expensive to go away during the school holidays. The Clarke family feel that these kinds of penalties should be done away with, and they feel so strongly about it that they’ve launched a Facebook campaign called Stop Fines For Taking Children Out Of School.
“Talking with other parents, we found out the consistency of fines was very erratic”, Emma said. “Some parents would take their children out and not get fined at all, and some parents were given authorisation year after year.
“I also feel the new rules discriminate against hard-working families who can’t afford to pay prices in the school holidays”, she continued. “If you compare prices of a similar holiday we went on, it would have cost £4,680 for the four of us during the summer holidays or £2,740 the first week when children go back to school.
“It’s such a massive difference, and that’s why we obviously opted for the cheaper option, because we just couldn’t afford extortionate prices”.
The Facebook campaign already has 5,175 members (proving that the Clarkes are not the only ones who feel this way), but not everyone is supportive.
Trainee teacher Siobhán Maria wrote on the Facebook group that although she sympathises with the family, she doesn’t feel it’s a good idea.
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“…You may think missing a day or two or even a week isn’t a problem, but what is that teaching your kids, breaking rules is fine, breaking the law is fine (no pun intended) schools have to draw the line somewhere and they are trying to target the constant offenders but they need to be consisted”, she wrote. “I’m sure many will disagree but sadly schools need to do something to ensure children are given the best opportunities and to do that they need to be in school. If teachers have to wait for the school holidays then so should the children otherwise it would be a free for all. Maybe it’s the holiday companies that need to be target as it is them who hike up the prices! I’m not here to cause upset it’s just that’s schools and teachers need your support otherwise they will just crumble”.