09/08/2012 14:09 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Do Your Children Truant - Or Are They Simply On Holiday?

Does your child truant - or are they simply on holiday? Alamy

Would you allow your child to truant from school? Of course you wouldn't.
But what if truanting applied to absences from school for a family holiday? And it does. Last year 400,000 pupils missed 15 per cent of schooling. This figure includes children whose parents took them to out of school for a family holiday.

Head teachers are currently allowed to impose fixed penalty notices on parents, ranging from £25 to £100. Most fines are for £50 but almost half are unpaid. Now, the Government plans to double the fine if unpaid within 28 days and deduct it at source from child benefit.


Is this fair on families who are fully supportive of their child's education, but who cannot afford holidays, or take leave for annual leave, during the peak holiday season?

Will children really suffer if they miss five days of school?


Is educational attainment really the issue and has this changed since league tables became so important?

Certainly, a number of years ago when my children were at primary school, parents informed the head teacher their child would be going on holiday. It wasn't actively encouraged, but there were no fines and most teachers - often a little green-eyed that they could only holiday during peak times - would add, "Read lots and this is the maths topic you are missing."

I admit I took my children out of primary school on a couple of occasions; it was almost the end of term when not much was being done in the classroom. Over the week, my children read books, kept a holiday diary, and explored the countryside. We saved a lot of money and avoided other people's children.

Nicky says: "I used to take my boys away occasionally during term time. £60 wouldn't deter me because of the savings I made on the holiday. I remember taking them away when they introduced the £100 per child fine. Nothing happened, just had a few harsh words from the Head."

And Laura who has a five-year-old says, "While I agree it isn't really a good example to set, I would happily take her out of school at the moment. I don't think it would have much impact on learning at her age. I suppose I'd think about it more carefully when she's older and might conceivably miss a whole topic."

But Rose does not agree: "I wouldn't, and although I can see why parents do, I do not approve of it - even a week out of school can leave children with huge gaps in their knowledge. Plus I don't think it sets a good example to the kids."

But would a fine of £60 really deter any parent? Michelle says "I've never done it, but a £60 fine would not stop me."

Off-peak, the saving on a holiday can be more than £1000. Thomson was offering a week at the Protour Aparthotel in Majorca, in late June for £2016. This is not luxury accommodation: it's 4-beds in one bedroom. In mid-August the same holiday is priced at £3072. But you don't have to go abroad: hiring a cottage in the UK will cost you double or more in August compared with mid-June.

What do the travel companies have to say? Liz Bartlett, PR manager for Thomson, says: "As with any industry, prices are determined by a variety of market factors. If we were to introduce a flat pricing structure, holidays during peak times would sell out very quickly and we would have to discount off-peak holidays to sell them. We give away thousands of free child places and early booking discounts for customers travelling during school holidays."

Sean Tipton, press officer at ABTA, says: "Because of supply and demand issues, prices are typically higher during periods of high demand. More people across Europe, not just in the UK, want to take holidays in July and August, at Easter and at Christmas, therefore prices rise during these times.

"Package tour operators are the most family friendly sector of the industry offering free child places for early bookers and lower fares for children. If families are prepared to be flexible, for example travelling Tuesday to Tuesday, they may also find they get better value even during peak periods."

Does your child truant - or are they simply on holiday? Getty

Is it right to hit caring parents, who want the opportunity to show their children the world, but cannot afford to do so in August, with the same fines as parents who turn a blind eye when their child who bunks off every Friday and hangs out with their mates in town, or pulls a sickie to avoid double maths?

Are we really to believe that missing five days of school in year 5 is going to blight their education forever? No parent in the right mind would take a Year 11 child on holiday a month before their GCSE exams.

Catherine's children have attended school in France and she says, "In France about half the kids leave before the end of the summer term, so much so that the school sends out a note with a tick box so you can say if they are still going to be around for the school summer show."

Or should parents be clamouring for a change to school terms?

Again, Liz from Thomson says, "We have recently supported Take the Family's recent campaign which calls for the Government to look at staggering school holidays so that the peak season is not so concentrated into a short six week period."

It doesn't look as if the holiday industry can offer much more so what would be most beneficial to you?
Schools being more understanding over holiday absence, or a change to the long six week holiday?
Or do you pay the fine and go anyway?

More on Parendish: Teacher fined for sending her daughter on holiday during term time