School break dilemma for Yorkshire families as campaigners warn traditional summer holidays ‘only for rich’

Traditional summer holidays are becoming a preserve of the most affluent, campaigners and union officials have warned, in the wake of rising travel costs and strict rules around term-time breaks.

Increasing numbers of people are staying in the UK over the summer, official figures show, with a weakening pound ahead of Brexit and prices having risen to travel abroad.

Councils can issue a fine of �60 per child for each day missed, which rises to �120 if not paid within 21 days.

Now, as a new analysis reveals a steep increase in term-time holidays, campaigners warn that many parents have little option when faced with soaring costs.

This is how much you could get fined if your children miss school
Union bosses have also said the Government’s policy of fining parents for pulling children out of schools “simply isn’t working”, as some families now risk “missing out altogether” on holidays.

Each session can count for a half day, and to miss one without consent means councils can fine a parent £60 per child, or £120 if not paid within 21 days.

But, the latest figures show, the number missed for unauthorised holiday has risen nearly two thirds since this was introduced in 2013, as parents increasingly break the rules.

And with a 25 per cent hike in sessions skipped just last year, there are warnings that the strict rules aren’t working as parents are progressively prepared to brace for a fine.

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Ian Stevenson, Yorkshire’s regional secretary for the National Education Union, said: “We know parents do all they can to keep children in school. No parent wants their child to miss out on their education. However there will be occasions when families will take a holiday in term time.”

Mr Stevenson said family holidays during summer breaks can now be “very expensive”.

He added: “This leaves some families facing the choice of being fined for going away in term time when the costs are more affordable or, missing out altogether on a family holiday. The Government’s policy of fining parents is the wrong route to be going down. It causes unnecessary tensions between schools and families.”

He said the increases show the Government’s policy “simply isn’t working”.

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Every authority in the region saw a rise in the number of sessions missed in autumn 2017, when compared with 2016, because of unauthorised holidays, figures from the Department for Education show.

It follows a high-profile case in April 2017, when Isle of Wight father Jon Platt lost an appeal in the Supreme Court after taking his daughter to Disney World.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “No child should be taken out of school without good reason – children only get one chance at an education and evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs.

“The rules on term-time absences are clear and we have put schools back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.

Head teachers have the discretion to grant leave, but in maintained schools they may do so only in exceptional circumstances”