A MOTHER of four who was fined for taking her children out of school in the last week of term has described it as “pathetic” that parents can be fined for taking their children on holiday in term time.
Katie Michael, who has three children at Woodlands Primary School, was fined £180 for taking her family to Weymouth on holiday – despite her children having an exemplary attendance record for the rest of the year.
She said: “I went to the headteacher asking for a holiday form but was told that I was not allowed one.
“I decided to take them out of school anyway and the cost of the holiday was still half the price even with the fine.”
As the Journal reported last week, 960 parents were fined in Wiltshire last year for taking their children out of school in term time.
That was a six per cent increase on the previous year and follows a tightening up of the rules by the Department of Education.
Headteachers are now only allowed to grant term time absence in “exceptional circumstances”.
Parents are fined £120 a week for each child, although this is reduced to £60 if they pay within 21 days.
The Department of Education says school attendance is compulsory and is essential for academic success.
“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,” said a spokesman.
But Ms Michael is calling for a change of policy and says family holidays are important but often too expensive during the school holidays.
“The week we went was the last week of term after the SATS, so my daughter had already sat her tests,”
“They should be allowed to go on holiday for at least one week a year especially if it is the last week of term when all they do is watch DVDs.
“All children need a holiday.”
In the week that Prime Minister David Cameron said Government policies should pass a “family test”, a Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “Every day in a child’s education is important and we are working with headteachers to follow Government guidance regarding unauthorised term-time absence.”