The Lighter Side of Life with kate Mason: Common sense approach needed for term-time fines

Millions of parents faced with the prospect of paying extortionate amounts of money to book a getaway during school holiday season are taking their children out of lessons during term-time.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 26th May 2016, 8:22 am
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2016, 9:28 am

Many parents would rather incur a £60 fine then stump up the hundreds of pounds extra to book a getaway in peak school holiday season - and I for one can’t blame them.

Thanks to a recent high court ruling in favour of a parent challenging the controversial term-time fines many believe the case is likely to open the flood gates and give rise to similar challenges.

The ruling now threatens to derail strict absence regulations in schools across the country.

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And low and behold less than two weeks after the court case flight and holiday booking firms are already reporting increases in online enquiries for holidays in term time.

In an ideal world everyone would play by the rules and wait until school was out for summer before jumping on a plane but the reality is few can afford that luxury.

I understand good attendance is vital to a good education but it seems once again common sense rarely comes into it when schools are dishing out these fines.

Take a South Yorkshire couple who were recently slapped with a fine for taking their child out of school for three days, despite her having a 97 per cent attendance record.

To make matters more incomprehensible her other children escaped punishment for going on the exact same trip.

If children have shocking attendance records and are missing week after week for term-time holidays I can completely understand it - but when students with near perfect attendance records are incurring fines something doesn’t seem to add up.

What schools are failing to realise is that educational opportunities exist beyond starring at a blackboard in a classroom and travel can be just as valuable.

Teachers are quite happy to have us sitting there working out the value of X and Y or tearing our hair out with trigonometry - skills I have never used since Year 10 - but seem to look down on the opportunities travel provides like embracing new cultures and practicing foreign language skills.

The Department for Education is set to look again at a policy covering term-time absences and I just hope common sense finally prevails.