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Travelzoo is urging all UK MPs to attend a debate in Westminster on the issue of fining parents for taking children out of school for holidays in term-time.
The debate is due to be held on Monday after it emerged that the number of fines issued to parents for taking children out of school for holidays in term-time has almost trebled in two years.
Travelzoo is backing the Local Government Association’s call for a “common sense approach” should be applied to parents in England taking children out of school for holidays.
Head teachers should be allowed to give reasonable consideration to term-time leave requests and the LGA wants the Department for Education for a change in the rules.
Recent research for Travelzoo found that almost half (49%) of teachers say that term-time fines are damaging their relationship with parents.
The company discovered in a study of nearly 500 state school teachers that nearly three quarters (73%) had experienced parents lying to them since the fines were introduced and 14% of teachers admitted they have turned a blind eye to absences rather than report families taking children out of school.
Travelzoo launched its ‘Parent Trap’ campaign in 2013, calling for more flexibility on term time absences, removal of Air Passenger Duty in the school holidays and a review of the peak time travel pricing in light of moves to stagger school holiday dates.
The future of the fines was thrown into doubt last week when a father won a court battle after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his six year-old daughter out of school to go to Disney World, Florida.
The case against Jon Platt was thrown out by Isle of Wight magistrates after he argued that the law requires parents only to ensure their children attend school “regularly”.
A Travelzoo spokeswoman said: “The three-fold increase in fines indicates two things – parents are prepared to take matters into their own hands and risk the fine and councils are becoming tougher on parents.
“This potential stand-off does nothing to address the alleged reason for the fines – truancy – and only serves to create a tension between schools and families and penalise parents who, for numerous reasons, cannot take their children on holiday during school holiday dates.
“There is also a less talked about post-code lottery going on where some councils such as Hampshire and Lancashire have been handing out thousands of fines but others – such as Cornwall and Devon – are handing out very few. The system is confusing, unfair and needs an overhaul.”
She added: “We also know from our research that nearly half of UK parents would feel justified occasionally taking their child out of school for a one-off occasion or family event. With cases like the Platt family in the media, we expect this number to increase regardless of these controversial fines.
“On one hand this government is attempting to make schools as autonomous as it can, but on the other, it’s insisting all heads stick to an untenable one-size-fits-all approach to absences.
“We wholeheartedly support the LGA’s calls for a more common sense approach.”
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