Can You Afford a Family Holiday?


A £1,000 fine for taking their children on a week's holiday to the Greek island of Crete has hit a family from Telford.

Holiday School Attendance

Why Were the Family Fined?

Back in September 2013, after experiencing trouble with one of their children, the Sutherland family thought they needed a holiday to bring the family back together. On returning, they found the children's school had fined them £360 for taking them in term time and if they didn't pay, the fine would go up. Outraged by the schools reaction the family refused to pay the fine.

They were taken to court and a magistrate increased the fine to £630 including the £363 court costs. Mr Sutherland, the children's father, represented himself in court and explained to the magistrates that he thought the holiday was for the best regarding his family - taking into consideration the troubles they were facing with their eldest daughter. He also made clear that he had booked the holiday before the September 2013 rule change. The rule change denied head teachers the discretion to give 10 days of leave for children except under exceptional circumstances.

Despite this, he lost the case. He expressed that those that make up the rules "don't live in the real world" causing families to be fined for wanting to spend quality time with each other at a time that they can afford it. He described their house as having a "rolling door", one parent in, one out at work hardly ever crossing paths to spend time together with the children. His job was a motivating factor for booking the holiday at that time. As a Ministry of Defence guard, he was not able take time out during the school holidays.

What Are the Numbers?

Wanting to put realistic numbers to the story, Simpson Millar LLP has calculated how much a holiday at the end of September to Crete would cost for the family as opposed to in the 6 weeks holiday in August. The results were shocking. For the couple and their 3 children to go on holiday to Crete at the end of September it would cost them around £2,000 all inclusive for 7 nights. For the same holiday in August it would cost them around £3,000. It is for this reason, and many more that families will choose to take their children out of school in term time to treat them to a family holiday.

The Campaign

38 Degrees – 'Campaigns by You', is one of the UK's largest campaigning communities. They are currently home to the "Reverse the Changes to School Term Time Family Holiday Rules" petition addressed to the Department for Education (DfE). They are imploring the government to give power back to the parents and out of the hands of schools and UK tour operators.

Many businesses cannot afford to have all of their staff out of the office at the same time and the effects of this could go much deeper. Some parents worry that these changes may discourage employers to hire people with families who have children – especially women.

Parents believe a holiday can be just as educationally valuable than sitting in the classroom, with one father saying that a trip to Rome encouraged his son to pursue a project about the Romans, something he may not have been passionate about beforehand.

A DfE spokesperson has said they are giving schools more freedom to set their own term dates, which may allow families to book cheaper holidays. They also reiterated that fact that poor attendance can adversely affect a child's education.

A donations page has been set up to help the family pay off the fine – however they have said they would like instead for the money to go to charity.

Bryan Nott, Partner comments, "A casual approach to taking children out of school for holidays is clearly wrong and parents ought to think long and hard about the consequences."

"Many families are facing tough times as the cost of living is going up and up. Therefore for some the 'once in a lifetime' trip may be out of reach during school holidays. "

"We seem to have gone from one extreme to the other with little publicity and explanation. It would make a lot of sense for there to be some clear guidance as to what might be an appropriate reason to take a child out of school and what would not."

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