The ability of families to take children out of school for a holiday or short break during term time without having to pay a fine will be decided at a test case starting today.
Banker James Haymore took his three children to the United States to attend a memorial service for their great grandfather and was fined £120.00 by his local authority on his return.
He is appealing the decision by Essex County Council in a bid to highlight the difficulties faced by some parents and carers who need to withdraw children from school during term time.
If he loses the case, he will could a much larger fine and possibly a prison sentence if he continues to refuse to pay.
His position is supported by MP John Hemming who also supports the Parents Want a Say campaign which is seeking to allow parents to take children on holiday during term time.
The case also puts the spotlight on legislation by the Department for Education which previously left requests for term time absence to the discretion of individual head teachers.
Local Authorities now instruct head teachers to take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to requests. This leaves many families having to pay higher peak season prices – or risk a fine if they remove children for a break during term time.
But many other families struggle to afford even a few days away in the UK, says John McDonald of the Family Holiday Association. His organisation assists hundreds of families each year with small grants designed to give a break to disadvantaged families and or those who look after a disabled family member. The organisation also sees value in a child taking a short break in certain circumstances where they may be struggling at school.
"Clearly, it is not appropriate to take a child out of school for months at a time. School is very important. Children should be in school to learn but a week or even a few days away can make a huge difference to a family, especially if a child is engaged in low level disruption.
A short break can make a big difference to child and this can have a positive impact upon their return to school – which is not just good for the child but for the school community. There needs to be a more rational take on the subject rather than a blanket ban by head teachers and local authorities," he told Boutique Hotelier.
To find out more about more about the Family Holiday Association: