In the United Kingdom, the Government has been accused of imposing “inflexible” holiday rules on headteachers after a father was fined £630 (~$1,000 USD) for taking his children on a week-long break during the school term. In addition, after appearing in court on Wednesday, Stewart Sutherland and his wife Natasha were ordered to pay £300 (~$450 USD) in costs and a £63 (~$100 USD) victim surcharge.
In their defense, work commitments had prevented the couple, from Trench, Telford, from taking a holiday during the official summer break as they told magistrates sitting in the Shropshire town. Recently tightened rules governing pupil absences had been put in place by people who “don’t live in the real world” according to Sutherland, 39, who works as a Ministry of Defence guard. He was reportedly quoted as saying:
“There are thousands and thousands of people up and down the country who cannot get the time off work [to take a holiday during term time].
“I have got no problem with the school – the council is trying to put the blame on the headteachers of the schools that my children went to.
“They [headteachers] are set clear boundaries of when they can authorize and can’t authorize a holiday.
“Unfortunately, just because I could not get time off, that doesn’t fall into their category, so the school was unable to authorize the holiday request.”
With no other choice, Sutherland and his wife admitted failing to ensure their three children attended school regularly between September 4th and October 25th 2013. The couple took their six-year-old son and two daughters, aged 15 and 13, on a week-long holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes.
According to The Guardian, the couple had not been given authorization to take the children out of classes during the holiday last September and then opted not to pay a £360 fixed penalty notice as the court was told.
Natasha Sutherland, 36, reportedly said, “Obviously we have got to pay the fine, that’s the outcome of it. But at least we have stood up for what we believed was right.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said:
“Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent.
“Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday, because this is a criminal offence and when doing so they are always risking prosecution.”
Telford and Wrekin council said:
“The decision to not authorize an absence request from parents during term is taken by a school or an academy and not the council.
“The council’s policy on absence has been developed to reflect the national and local priority of raising the educational achievement and attainment of pupils and the government’s view that parents should not take their children out of school during term time, and follows changes in legislation that clearly indicate that absences during the term time can only be authorized by heads in exceptional circumstances.”