The UK government has introduced penalties for parents who take their children on holiday during the school term. The penalty is £60 per parent, per child and rises to £120 if it’s not paid within 21 days. Parents who don’t pay these fines can be prosecuted and may receive a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a prison sentence of up to three months as well as a Parenting Order from the Court.
This draconian system is ridiculous and unnecessary. It’s for parents and schools to decide what’s best for individual children and families, not central government. When my daughter (now 16) first started school, families could apply to the Headteacher for permission to take their children out of school. The Head would consider the application and give permission or not. This system allowed Heads to use their judgment and worked perfectly well. In contrast parents today are made to feel like criminals simply for taking their children on holiday.
I’ve written before about why I think that families should be allowed term-time holidays. This week I decided to find out what the situation is outside the UK. I contacted some family travel bloggers and friends living abroad to find out. I told them about the penalties in the UK and I asked them what happens if they take their kids out of school in order to travel. This is what they told me.
‘Kids miss school all the time to go on holidays, it’s at the parents’ discretion. There is no risk to taking kids out of school, but it’s not done that much, due to the childcare issues during school holidays. However they do have big problems with absenteeism as there is no real punishment for it.’ Sophie, Franglaise Mummy
‘First of all you have to get permission from the school, and it’s usually frowned upon. Then, it’s advisable that you get a letter of authority from the school that you can show to the police. It’s actually against the law to take your children out of school during term time, and you can receive a huge fine and in some cases be arrested for it. It’s not unusual to be questioned at passport control as to why you are leaving the country with children in term time.’ Emma, A Bavarian Sojourn
‘In Greece actually it is OK to take your children out of school to go on holiday. The only thing the parent has to do is to inform the school. No official paper is needed.’ Anna Atsalaki, Kids Love Greece
‘The possibility to travel during school depends on the teacher. If he/she agrees with you, it’s OK. Otherwise, perhaps he/she will penalize your children.’ Milena Marchioni, bimbi e viaggi
‘If you are absent for more than a quarter of the school year you could be failed . And they count it in hours. So my son can miss 248 hours of school.’ Jenny, Piedmont.
‘My understanding is there is now a fine/jail situation here. We had to go to the US for Thanksgiving this year and had to get special permission for it.’ Farrah Ritter, The Three Under
‘We usually try to travel when the kids are off, but have missed a day here and there without any problems. This time, however, we’re going to Brazil and they’ll miss school for two weeks. I talked to the teachers first and proposed the girls work on a project about Brazil they can then present to their classmates when we’re back. So, no fines.’ Patricia Zacharias Monahan, Our Whole Village
‘No one really cares here. We also have alternative schools so if you travel a lot your kids can go and just take work along etc. I’ve pulled my kids out at least a week a month.’ Sarah K. Pittard, Solo Mum Takes Flight
‘I pulled mine for a year of travel without penalty.’ Heather Greenwood Davis, who has written on her blog Globetrotting mama about about the UK situation.
‘My children are in the public school system in Vancouver. Currently, there is no penalty that I am aware of for missing school (and we certainly push the limits).’ Tara Cannon, who has written on her blog pint size pilot about taking her children out of school to travel.
‘The Mexican school that my kids go to are very understanding about parents taking their kids out of school during term time. At the start of the year they specifically said that they understand that parents can’t always take holidays during school holidays and that some circumstances require children to miss school. They do ask, however, that kids don’t miss exam / test time.’ Katje Gaskell, globetotting.com
‘We’ve taken our kids out without a problem for vacations. I always notify the school and teachers beforehand.’ Kimberley Tate, stuffed suitcase
‘We just ask and work with the teacher to assign some additional work. It usually involves writing about the places visited and presenting to the class (elementary school). Public schools here get additional monies per day / per student so attendance is good for the school. The school will still get the $ if you’re child is away but in independent study.’ Brennan Pang, Trekaroo
‘I always “ask” permission as far in advance as possible. The approach works well, because teachers always approve my request and provide homework (or excuse much of it) without complaint.’ Karen Dawkins, Family travels on a budget
‘The most I have taken my kids out for is one week. Certain school districts are sticklers about excessive absences and if they think it’s a problem will send you threatening letters, take you to court, and possibly assign a truancy officer. I have received my share of threatening letters, but it has never gone beyond that.’ Alysia Knop George, Michigal Travels
‘We get a nasty letter and a possible visit from a truant officer if the school principal is so inclined.’ Dia Wisley Adams, The Deal Mommy
As you can see, I’ve had more feedback from the US than from anywhere else. If you live in a part of the world that’s not been mentioned here, what’s the situation where you live? Can you take your kids out of school in order to go on holiday? And if you’re in the UK what do you think about the situation? Have you ever taken your kids out of school for a holiday?