Parents who choose to take children out of school for holidays during term-time may face steep penalties according to a report submitted by UK government advisor, Charles Taylor.
The government, however, is considering a reversal of an earlier proposal that would have placed an outright ban on parents taking children on holiday during term time. The ban is being replaced by steeper fines, which may deter already poorly off middle-class parents from considering such vacations.
The government is planning to implement a tougher system of fines for parents who regularly take their children on vacations during term-time, in order to take advantage of off-peak holiday costs. Parents may face penalties of up to GBP120, double the current fine of £50 to £60. The money will be subtracted from child benefits should the parents refuse to make the payment. The penalties come with a 28-day payment clause.
The UK Government’s truancy adviser, Charlie Taylor, said in an interview, ‘Some parents simply allow their children to miss lessons and then refuse to pay the fine. It means the penalty has no effect, and children continue to lose vital days of education they can never recover. Recouping the fines through child benefit, along with other changes to the overall system, will strengthen and simplify the system. It would give head teachers the backing they need in getting parents to play their part.’
Taylor will be submitting his report, commissioned by Education Secretary, Michael Gove, as part of his recommendations to tackle regular absences by school children.
For most truant schoolchildren, it’s illness that’s keeping them at home. But new figures researched by the Department of Education have suggested that the second-largest cause of school truancy has been the family holiday. With peak-season travel prices often unattainable given the economic state, more families are opting to plan their holidays in off-peak periods, taking their children with them.
It’s a phenomenon that the department wishes to crack down on, claiming that the midterm holidays simply aren’t in the best interests of children. A series of new fines could go into effect next year, an expert within the education sector suggests, limiting the amount of days for which children could be away from school due to planned family holidays and non-illness commitments.
Parents are upset about the proposed new measures, claiming that holidays represent an opportunity for their children to gain important skills outside of the classroom. Excess truancy currently results in a fine of approximately £50 – a price that many parents are willing to pay due to the low cost of off-peak holidays. Top-level fines can approach £100, though they are rarely handed out.
Teachers are allowed to give ‘authorised’ absence passes to students planning to holiday with their families, provided the holiday plans are built around work obligations. Most parents opt to holiday with their children during the final days of each term, aiming to minimize the amount of time spent outside of the classroom during peak learning times.
An estimated seventy-thousand students miss school classes daily due to vacations and non-school events, with almost forty percent of all absences unauthorised by their respective schools. Holidays were the most frequent case of non-illness absences, closely followed by unexplained absences due to students skipping classes, tutorials and school commitments.