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Shocking number of parents risk jail time in pursuit of cheaper summer holidays

Millions of parents are risking huge fines and even prosecution this summer in pursuit of cheaper holidays during term-time, according to new research by The University of Law (ULaw).

The University’s research revealed 89% of parents of school aged children are unaware that taking a child out of school during term-time could result in prosecution, while 71% don’t know that fines can reach up to £2,500. What’s more, 16% believed that none of the genuine legal penalties presented to them were real.

According to the study, 56% of parents admitted they have taken their child out of school for a term-time holiday, with 28% of those saying they’d gladly do it again. Just one in four (24.5%) said this is something they would never do.

Considering the research, Sarah Ramsey, Dean at The University of Law Birmingham has warned parents of the serious legal consequences they could face for holidaying during term time, which range from education supervision to a £2,500 fine and even prosecution.

Genuine legal penalties parents believe to be real:

  • A fine of £60-£120 per child – 47%
  • A fine of up to £2,500 – 29%
  • Prosecution and time in jail – 11%
  • A community order – 9%
  • Parenting order (i.e. a requirement to attend parenting classes) - 13%
  • Education Supervision (i.e. an appointed supervisor to get your child back into education) - 11%
  • None of the above – 16%

It seems a high percentage of parents are familiar with the smaller fines associated with taking children out of school in term-time, while significantly fewer are aware that this fine can increase up to £2,500 in some cases. Perhaps more worryingly, only 11% correctly acknowledged that term-time holidays could result in prosecution and jail time.

It is the law in the UK that all children “must get an education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.” Both schools and local councils have powers to take legal action if they believe your child to be missing school without good reason – including unapproved holidays.

For those desperate to book a trip during term-time, express permission must be given by the school’s headteacher in advance of the holiday. Although, importantly, permission is only likely to be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Sarah comments: “It’s certainly not uncommon for parents to take children out of school during term-time, considering how much cheaper holidays often are at these times. However, I’d urge parents to consider their options very carefully before making a decision, or they could end up in serious hot water.

“Before booking anything have a conversation with your child’s teacher and/or headteacher. Any absence will be at their discretion and it may be that they approve the time off, although this is usually only in exceptional circumstances. If they will not approve the time off, then it’s time to look at alternative dates. While warnings will likely be given at first for an unapproved absence, this can soon escalate to prosecution including a community order or even three months in prison.”

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