PARENTS

Mum And Dad Face Prison After Taking Children Out Of School For First Holiday In Five Years

18/11/2017 19:25 GMT

Newsteam


A mum and dad are facing jail after they took their children out of school to go on their first family holiday in five years.

Stewart and Natasha Sutherland had taken six-year-old son, Keane, and their daughters Sian, 13, and Rhiannan, 15, to Rhodes for a week during the school term in September.

Under controversial new laws, they were fined £360 but it doubled to £720 after they didn't pay it within 21 days.

But they have refused to pay because they say they had booked their holiday in October 2012, before the new law was put in place.

They will now go before Telford Magistrates' Court where they face a possible three-month prison sentence and a fine of up to £2,000.

Stewart, who works for the Ministry of Defence Guard Service, told the Shropshire Star: "It's like a revolving door in our house - I come in from work and my wife goes out.

"We haven't been able to get leave in the school holidays at the same time for five years, and we desperately needed a family break.

"I work in a sensitive job where staffing levels have to be maintained - there's been a recruitment and overtime ban and it's been impossible to arrange summer leave that fits in with the rest of the family.

"I know how important education is - but there's a bigger picture. Family time is important, too, and the children's behaviour and schooling has improved massively since our holiday together."

Schools used to be able to grant 10 days a year leave for family holidays, but that has been changed.

Head teachers are no longer obliged to give leave except in 'exceptional circumstances'.

Section 444 of the Education Act, 1996, now requires parents to send their children to school regularly or they face a fine or jail.

Stewart, 39, added: "I've since become aware that other parents just lie and tell the school their kids are ill, but I was upfront from the outset and raise my children to be honest.

"This is not about the fine or the cost of the holidays outside of school term, it is about the principle. I could not have holiday any other time."

Kay Burford, attendance support team leader for Telford and Wrekin Council, told the newspaper: "Leave in term-time which results in significant absence from school is disruptive to the child's education and has a detrimental impact on attainment.

"There is no automatic right to any leave or holiday in term time. The regulations clearly make the point that the headteacher has the final decision as to whether to authorise the leave or not."

A Department for Education spokesman 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."

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