UK & World News
Term-Time Holiday Fine: Parents Ordered To Pay
A couple who took their three children out of school for a family holiday during term time have been fined £630.
Stewart and Natasha Sutherland, from Trench, Telford, took Keane, aged six, Sian, 13, and Rhiannon, 15, on a week-long break to Greece.
The couple said they booked the trip to Rhodes in October 2012, before new legislation banning schools from allowing 10 days leave for family holidays was introduced last year.
The court heard the couple had not been given authorisation by two schools to take the children out of classes during the trip last September.
They refused to pay an initial £360 penalty. That then doubled to £720 because it was not paid within 21 days.
The couple said they had booked the trip in term time because they had not been able to get leave together during the school holidays for five years.
They denied it was because they wanted a cheaper break.
Claiming the family needed to spend time together on holiday to address problems being experienced by one of his children, Mr Sutherland said: "I feel that I am being treated like a criminal and being punished because I am trying to do the best for my family.
"It's like being taxed because I am a shift worker. I had to take everybody as a family to get us back on track, which is what I have done."
The pair admitted failing to ensure their children attended school regularly between September 4 and October 25 last year.
Speaking after the hearing at Telford Magistrates' Court in Shropshire, the father-of-three described newly-tightened regulations governing pupils' absence for holidays as a farce.
The 39-year-old, who works as a Ministry of Defence guard, said: "The people who make these laws and policies don't live in the real world."
Telford & Wrekin Council said the new legislation was clear. Head teachers can now only give pupils leave in term time in "exceptional circumstances", because they say "significant absence" can be "disruptive" to how well children do at school.
"The decision to not authorise an absence request from parents during term is taken by a school or an academy and not the council. The school or academy will then instruct the council to issue the fine notice and legally this has to be done by the council.
"If the fine is not paid the council must take further legal steps, as it has in this case."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect, and children who attend school regularly are nearly four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly absent.
"That is why we have given schools more power to tackle poor attendance and allowed them to intervene much earlier. We have also increased the amount parents can be fined for unauthorised absences and cut the amount of time they have to pay.
"Parents should never simply discount a possible penalty notice from the cost of a cheaper holiday, because this is a criminal offence and when doing so they are always risking prosecution."
The husband and wife were also ordered to pay £300 in costs and a £63 victim surcharge.
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