Doncaster family furious over term time holiday fine

John Harris and Rebecca Parry are furious after being issued a fine for taking their child out of school in term time
John Harris and Rebecca Parry are furious after being issued a fine for taking their child out of school in term time

A Doncaster family has hit out at controversial term-time holiday rules after being fined for taking their daughter out of lessons – while her other children escaped punishment for going on the same trip.

Rebecca Parry and John Harris were furious after being issued with a fine for taking their child out of school for three days despite her having a 97 per cent attendance record.

The couple took their three children on holiday to France but were only issued with a fixed penalty notice for 11-year-old daughter Poppy – who attends Hawthorn Primary in Cantley and had the best attendance record of the three.

After Miss Parry refused to pay the fine and a trial date was set, the case was dropped.

She is now in the process of pursuing an application for defence costs after the former law lecturer chose to represent herself.

Miss Parry, of Grice Close, Doncaster said: “I think education is the most important thing for children but I also believe that education is not just acquired at school but through many life experiences such as travel.

“The trip was educational; we visited a number of places of historic interest and it gave my eldest daughter, Kaya, who is studying French at GCSE, a chance to practice her language skills. All my children have excellent attendance records and this was the first unauthorised absence they had ever had.”

Miss Parry said it was totally irrational that she had taken all three children on holiday yet only one had been issued with a fine. The family did not receive a fine for nine-year-old Woody, who also attends Hawthorn Primary, nor for 14-year-old Hayfield Academy pupil Kaya Harris.

They both had attendance records of 95 per cent and above.

Miss Parry added: “I think it’s a money-making scheme, I think the council are using it as a means of income, I can’t see any other reason for it.

“There is absolutely no research or studies that have been done that can link taking a term time holiday to poor attainment.”

The case comes as the Department for Education revealed it is set to look again at the policy covering term time absences following the high court ruling in favour of Isle of Wight father Joe Platt, who took his daughter on holiday in term time.

Many believe the case is likely to give rise to similar challenges.

A Department for Education source said: “We will look at the judgment in detail, but we are clear that children’s attendance at school is non-negotiable and we shall now look to change the law.

“We will plan to strengthen the statutory guidance to schools and local authorities.”

A total of 3,378 mums and dads were handed fines by Doncaster Council for unauthorised absences between 2014 and 2015.

Damian Allen, director of learning opportunities and skills, said: “Regular attendance at school is very important for every child and the recent High Court judgment was based on the particular circumstances of the case and does not set a general precedent over what constitutes regular school attendance.

“Doncaster Council will continue to promote the importance of regular school attendance to all parents and where appropriate issue FPNs and take court action.”

Fixed penalties are £60 per pupil per absence.