A couple have been fined nearly £1000 for taking their children out of school for a week’s holiday in September.
Stewart and Natasha Sutherland, from Telford, Shropshire, had originally been fined £360 but, after repeatedly refusing to pay, ended up in court.
“The people who make these laws and policies don’t live in the real world,” says Stewart, 39.
He said in court that he’d booked the holiday on the Greek island of Rhodes for himself, his wife, their two daughters, 15 and 13, and their son, 6, before the law about term-time holidays changed.
Stewart added, in an interview with the BBC, that it was his first family holiday for five years because his job as a Ministry of Defence guard prevents him from taking annual leave during the school holidays.
Last year, the Department for Education strengthened the power of schools to deal with unauthorised absence – and increased the amount parents can be fined.
So what are the new rules on term-time holidays?
Previously, headteachers in England were able to grant up to 10 days of leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But since September 1st 2013, they are no longer able to grant any absence except under “exceptional circumstances”
It’s every parent’s legal responsibility to ensure their children attend school and, if they fail to do so, they may be issued with penalty notices of up to £100. Failure to pay these penalties can lead to prosecution, with the risk of £2500 fine and/or a community or jail sentence.
“Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect,” says a Department of Education spokesperson. “Children who attend school regularly are nearly 4 times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent.”