Voices: Of course I’d take my kids out of school for a holiday – and here’s why…

Is a term-time holiday really a crime?  (Murat Kocabas/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)
Is a term-time holiday really a crime? (Murat Kocabas/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

Parents are about to be landed with even higher fines for taking their children out of school for term-time holidays – and it’s an outrage.

Until now, fines have been a not-inconsiderable £60, rising to £120 if they are not paid within 21 days, but the Department for Education says that from this September, the penalties will start at £80, and rise to a downright-unaffordable £160.

I’m sorry, but have those introducing these rules ever met any parents? Or had children themselves? If they had, they might have seen the kind of prices we’re dealing with, simply for wanting a few days away with our kids. Personally, of course I’d take my kids out of school during term time – have you seen the price of a week at Center Parcs this summer? The fine would be worth it.

A four-night stay in a three-bedroom New Style Woodland Lodge in Elveden Forest, Suffolk, during the school summer break in 2024 (22 to 26 July) costs £1299, compared to £699 (1 to 5 July), when the kids are at still at school. That’s nearly half price!

The staggering hikes in airline tickets during half term can be as much as 1,200 per cent. Who wouldn’t be tempted to take the kids out of school for a cheap week and avoid soaring costs?

I’m not yet guilty of booking a holiday during term time – but I’m secretly planning one.

It may disgruntle the headteacher, who recently sent all parents an email warning us he’s been “working hard” on “tackling unnecessary regular absence and term time holidays”. Parents who have skipped school to take term-time holidays can shortly look forward to receiving letters/meeting invitations as he stamps it out once and for all.

I’m glad I’m not on the hit list – but let’s be compassionate. Crackdowns like this must be very hard for parents with family abroad – as well as for bank balances.

According to a recent survey, letting your kids skip school for a holiday has become “socially acceptable” post-Covid. There’s a “seismic shift” in parental attitudes, who take a more holistic approach to life and no longer believe children must be in school every day.

I’m a jellyfish mum-type; i’m under the impression that surely it’s just as educational taking your young children around the Amazon Rainforest, as it is playing in the sand pit in a reception class – or chanting times tables in years one and two? Of course, if my children were in the middle of GCSEs, I’d never dream of jumping on a plane with them term-time– but they are only aged five and seven. Give mums like me a break...

This study, however, comes amidst growing concerns about children’s absences from the classroom – including from education secretary Gillian Keegan (when she’s not handling the crumbling concrete crisis in schools).

Government figures reveal that more than a fifth of school kids in England were “persistently absent” in the last academic year of 2022/23 – presumably some were basking in the sun on a beach.

I know plenty of parents who have been doing just this – and I don’t judge them. They turn up a week or two late at the start of term as they are still travelling around Thailand; or very noticeable, they are never, ever, at the Christmas nativity play because they are on a plane again.

Do you have to slather your children in sunblock to disguise the holiday so they return looking pasty – and the school believes they’ve really had Covid? What do you tell the kids to say – nothing? Ignore the fact they’ve been skipping around a UK forest while their mates are doing PE? No. The only way to do it is to be brazen about it.

My friend saved nearly £1,000 on a four-star package deal with flights to Cyprus by returning her child to school four days late after the Easter holidays. It was a big mistake; she was wracked with guilt as her son missed the new class topic and felt left behind. She said it was eerie being the only ones left by the pool.

Parents who take their children out of school without permission can be fined by the local authority – fines start at £60, rising to £120 if you fail to pay within 21 days.

Some councils charge each parent for each child.  The sad truth is, though, that in most cases, it still works out far cheaper to book a holiday in term time. I should know; I just checked.

A return flight to Ibiza for a week on EasyJet for me and my two kids is £1,734.82 during October’s halfterm. Urm, what about if i sneak away slightly before half term begins? It’s £774.32.

It’s “hasta leugo” from me.