Take a term-time holiday and we’ll pay the school fine, says ski firm

Ski operator MountainBase says fines for term-time holidays hit 'innocent families' and schools are 'taking the piste'

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A British ski firm is offering to pay any fines slapped on parents who take their children out of school to go on one of the company’s ski holidays.

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MountainBase, a Bedford-based firm selling skiing holidays in the French Alpine resort of Morzine, posted its controversial offer on Facebook with the teaser slogan ‘Are Schools Taking the Piste?’ 

The post continues: “We think so… So we have a special offer which is as follows. Book a week with children at MountainBase/Inferno [and] we will, if you receive a fine from your school/local authority, pay the fine on copy of a receipt.”

Since September 1st 2013, parents who take their children out of school without permission – and headteachers are no longer able to grant any absence except under “exceptional circumstances” – can 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.

Lee Quince, MountainBase’s owner said, on Radio 5 Live, that the fines for term-time absence were introduced to target parents who turn a blind eye to their children’s truancy, not “innocent families” who want to go skiing. 

“The law was changed to specifically address truancy, especially in the wake of the riots,” he said.

“In some sense, that’s affecting people who are not honestly in that set. They’re being targeted by a law change not destined for themselves… They’re doing an activity they’re not able to do in the UK.”

Lee Quince has denied that his firm’s advert is irresponsible or encourages parents to break the law. “It’s a marketing ploy … something that’s one step above everyone else,” he told The Guardian. “The decision to break the law is squarely on the parent.”

MountainBase’s Facebook page has now been updated with a post that defends the fine-paying offer but adds, “We do not condone [taking children out of school] and leave the decision solely at the discretion of the parents. It is advised that as per the wording of the Education Act in all cases that an application for ‘leave’ is lodged with the governing body or proprietor of the school.”

What do you think? Is MountainBase being irresponsible or would you be tempted by their offer? And does the threat of fines put you off booking family holidays in term-time?

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MadeForMums Editor – Helen Brown

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