…By Jack Sylva for TDPel Media.
A dad from Redcar, North Yorkshire, has defended his decision to take his children on holiday during term time, saying it saved his family £8,000.
Paul Benson, 35, and wife Jessica, 34, were fined £480 for taking their children on a holiday to Disney World in Florida.
Benson claimed his children were “ostracised” from their primary school, and added that the school made their family trip a “criminal activity”.
However, despite being warned by teachers that the trip would affect their children’s education, their eldest daughter went on to score in the top 1% of the country in her SATs exams.
Benson said that the family holidays, which took place in September 2018 and 2019, cost £3,700 for a two-week stay, compared to a staggering £12,000 in peak season.
He said teachers warned him about taking the time off before informing Redcar and Cleveland Council about the unauthorised trips.
Benson called on the council to be more “fair” with parents after learning that pals at different schools had not been fined for doing the same thing.
Redcar and Cleveland Council said it would review the current criteria for issuing fines and explore other solutions.
Analysis and commentaries
The issue of taking children on holiday during term time is a contentious one in the UK.
Since 2013, head teachers have only been allowed to grant permission for term-time absences in exceptional circumstances.
Parents who take their children out of school during term time without permission face a fine of £60 per child, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
If the fine remains unpaid after 28 days, parents can be prosecuted for their child’s absence from school, and could face a fine of up to £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.
Benson’s case highlights the challenges facing parents who want to take their children on holiday during term time.
On the one hand, holidays during term time can be significantly cheaper than during peak season, making them more accessible to families on tight budgets.
On the other hand, schools have a responsibility to ensure that their students receive a full and consistent education, and some teachers argue that taking children out of school during term time disrupts their learning and undermines the importance of regular attendance.
The issue is likely to remain contentious, and it will be up to parents, schools, and local authorities to work together to find a balance between the benefits of taking holidays during term time and the importance of regular school attendance.