24/10/2014 11:49 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 10:12 BST

Headteacher Branded A 'Hypocrite' Over Term Time Holiday Refuses To Apologise


A head teacher who has booked a holiday to the Caribbean during term-time has hit back at critics who branded her a 'hypocrite'.

Jenny Winder, 53, head of Elstow School, a primary school near Bedford, came under fire after it was revealed she is planning a week off school after the Christmas holidays.

Parents expressed their anger because they would face a fine of £60 per child if they did the same. But Mrs Winder has refused to apologise for her holiday timing.

When approached by a newspaper, she said: "My private life is exactly what it says - private."

Mrs Winder, a mother-of-one, who is separated from her son's father, is planning to travel to the Caribbean with her partner in the New Year after pupils have gone back to school.

Her booking was given the blessing of school governors, but parents reacted with fury.

One said: "Mrs Winder is taking a week off in the New Year after the children have gone back. This is so unfair as teachers already get so many holidays and yet we wouldn't be allowed to take our children out of school for even a day."

Another said the decision was 'disgusting', adding: "I've been fined twice for taking my children out of school and I put in a request to take them out next year and it's been refused.

"I think she should either give us an explanation why she is taking time off or at least grant people holiday to do it themselves."

Another mum said: "It is disgraceful. [Mrs Winder] is a hypocrite. We can't take holidays in term-time so why should she? The school is fast enough threatening parents with fines if they take their children out."

The primary school's website reminds parents to book breaks 'only in holiday time' and encourages pupils to achieve 'highest possible levels of attendance'. It adds that the school 'will not authorise' such absences.

Less than two years ago, heads had the discretion to allow pupils up to 10 days' leave each year. But under measures brought in by the last Education Secretary, Michael Gove, parents now face a £60 fine each for every child who fails to attend school without permission, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

​Those who refuse to pay can be prosecuted, jailed for up to three months and fined £2,500.

Despite the furore surrounding Mrs Winder's holiday, chair of governors Kevin Hunter defended the head.

He told the local newspaper: "She made what we have judged to be a request for a week off during term time for personal reasons which we have judged appropriate."

He added that Mrs Winder was 'devoted, well-liked, extremely hardworking and effective' but would not say why she was granted the leave.

In the Bedford Borough Council area, where Elstow School is located, 432 parents were issued with a fixed penalty notice for taking their children out of school, when their absence was not authorised between September 2013 and July 2014. This compares to just 39 fixed penalty notices, which were issued between September 2012 and July 2013.

More on Parentdish: Am I allowed to take my child out of school for a holiday?