New rules in the UK no longer allow parents to take their children on vacation during “term time”.
New legislation introduced last September ended the ability for schools to allow for 10 days of leave for family holidays, as well as added fines of up to £1,500 ($2,530) for those families who do take their children out of school. Other than for illnesses, children may now only miss class time for “exceptional circumstances”, such as a funeral.
It is up to the headteacher to decide if the time off is necessary, and how much time to give.
Current rules brought in under former Education Secretary Michael Gove state parents must pay up to £120, or face higher fines or even jail time. Even with these steep rules, according to Travelzoo, 50% of UK parents have already lied about their child’s absences, and 67% are prepared to in order to save money.
With the cost of a flight rising as much as 80% between the time school is in session and summer vacation time, 53% of parents are willing to risk the cost of taking their child out of school during term time.
One such is a family which went on vacation to visit relatives in Australia during the school year. Janice Skelcher cares for her ailing mother-in-law and was unable to line up care for her any other time. Upon return, Coventry City Council charged them £240. The family refused to pay, resulting in their prosecution.
‘The law states that there have to be exceptional circumstances,” Skelcher said.
“Well, if it is not caring for a terminally ill person with two primary school children, then what is?’
The court gave the family a 12-month conditional discharge and fined them an additional £400 pounds.
Skelcher is petitioning the House of Commons, asking for a judicial review of the regulations ‘to recommend that greater support and flexibility [are] allowed for parents to enable them to more effectively care for their children’. The petition has been signed by more than 200,000 families so far.
Sir Richard Branson offered his support to the Skelchers, publicly stating on his blog that holidays allow children to “learn more than they ever could in a classroom.”
According to tourism officials in Cornwall, the move is causing a drop in tourism to the area, and they are asking the government to re-think the legislation.
‘It does make a difference, you can see it walking down the street there are fewer children about, and it’s making a real difference to a lot of businesses that rely on family holidays and overnight stays.” Reports Armand Toms, Cornwall councillor.
In an effort to stagger vacation dates and lower the high travel prices associated with summer vacation, the Government recently published a bill that would allow schools to choose their own end of term dates.
“We are also giving schools the flexibility to set their own term times so they can change dates to ones that work for their pupils and families.”