Term Time Holiday: Parents Get Criminal Record For Taking Children Out Of School

A mum and dad have been given criminal records for taking their children out of school for a term time holiday to Australia.

The parents from Coventry, who cannot be named to protect their children's identity, were given conditional discharges and ordered to pay a fine.

They both originally denied committing an offence under Section 44 of the Education Act 1996, when they appeared separately at Nuneaton Magistrates' Court yesterday (July 9).

The mother was given a 12 month conditional discharge. The father, who changed his plea to guilty, was given a 10 month conditional discharge.

They were also ordered to pay £800 towards prosecution costs.

"The magistrates gave the fairest verdict they could under the current laws, which are flawed," said the mum after the hearing. "I fully support any campaign to call for a judicial review.

"I still feel I did the right thing for my children at the right time."

During the trial the prosecutor, Amy Jackson, told the court that the only legal justification for a child's absence from school during term time was 'for sickness or an unavoidable cause'.

Magistrates heard that the family went to Australia for three weeks last October. The trip coincided with a week of half-term, but included 13 days of unauthorised absence from school.

The children's headteacher refused to give them permission for the absence - following new government guidelines about term time holidays, which were issued by Michael Gove in September 2013.

When the family returned from Australia, they were issued with a fine of £240 by Coventry City Council.

When the mum and dad failed to pay the fine, they were prosecuted.

While giving evidence, the mum said that her terminally ill mother-in-law had been living with the family, which was having 'a huge effect on the children.'

She said the family was 'suffering emotionally' and had planned the holiday to visit her sister and other relative in Australia for respite and support.

The mother's barrister, Annabel Goodman, questioned the school's interpretation of the new rules, after the head told the hearing there had been no exceptional circumstances.

The prosecution occurred on the same day that the chief constable of Humberside Police, Justine Curran, called for police officers' children to be given permission to go on term time holidays.

Ms Curran wrote to schools asking for exceptions to be made for police officers' children, as the force has to restrict leave during summer and Christmas for operational reasons.

She asked headteachers to use their discretion to 'fully consider' holiday requests.

In a letter to Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Education Secretary Michael Gove said the Department for Education guidance to headteachers 'does not specify what constitutes exceptional circumstances'.

He added: "Neither have we said that leave of absence can or cannot be granted to families of certain occupations."

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