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Date: 20/11/2015

Unclear Ban on Term-time Holidays Leaves Teachers Confused

With more parents being handed fines for taking their children out of school for holidays during term time than ever before, according to a recent survey it appears that the new legislation on term-time holidays is even leaving teachers confused.

Legislation confuses teachers

In a debate in the House of Commons in October, 90% of teachers said they would welcome advice about what constitutes 'exceptional circumstances' ‒ the phrase used in controversial legislation governing term-time holidays.

The legislation, introduced in September 2013, means children can only be taken out of school for holidays during term time 'in exceptional circumstances'. If parents ignore the rules and take their children out of school during the school term, they could face a £60 fine that doubles after three weeks if not paid.

Failure to pay could lead to prosecution and a £2,500 fine or up to three months in prison.

Staggering school holidays

Fines have trebled since the introduction of the ban. Travel companies and parents' groups have suggested the possibility of staggering term dates to solve the issues facing families that simply can't afford to travel during the school holidays, which are peak season for the industry and the most expensive time of the year to travel.

With the cost of flights, accommodation and family travel insurance, a holiday during peak season is out of the question for many families with younger children, even with the introduction of cheap family travel insurance and budget flights.

Many major airlines have predicted a drop in the price of flights if school holidays are staggered in the same way as they are in France and Germany. Only 4% of the teachers surveyed agreed this was a good idea, however, and worryingly over 50% of those surveyed were unaware that staggering holidays was even an option for their school.

Unfair legislation

Is it wrong for us to fine parents for taking their children out of school during term time? We are effectively saying to them that if they can't afford to take a holiday during school holidays, or are unable to take time off work themselves, then they will be unable to have a family holiday at all, which many feel is unfair.

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "Every child is unique and it should be for their parents to decide what is right and best for their child."