More than 5000 fines handed to South Yorkshire parents for taking kids on holiday in term time

Stock education picture.
Stock education picture.

More than 5000 fines were handed out to parents across South Yorkshire inside a year for taking their children on holiday during school term time.

Figures show there were 5672 penalty notices issued in the school year between 2015 and 16 and based on the standard fine of £60 this means councils raked in £340, 320.

It is understood that Sheffield Council does not directly profit from administering the penalty - instead, money gained in charges is invested in schemes that encourages a high attendance level at school.

The figures, obtained by the BBC, showed Doncaster had the highest figures in South Yorkshire with 2, 456 cases, followed by Sheffield with 2, 294, Barnsley with 563 and Rotherham last with 359. Across Yorkshire there were 25, 422 penalty notices handed out.

But many parents said they take term-time breaks to save money, as holidays increase in price when children are off school.

Darren Oldfield, aged 49, of Richmond, took his two children out of school to Tenerife in 2015 during term-time and was fined £120. He said last year: "Prices in school holidays are ridiculous.”

Sheffield mum Sophie Priest was also hit with one of the fines. She complained: "I gave my daughter’s school three weeks’ notice. She had 99 per cent attendance, she was top of her class and I even offered to take school work on holiday for her to do on the plane. I couldn’t travel in the school holidays as I was going to be too heavily pregnant to fly and wanted to give her a holiday before my second baby was born.

“School refused the time off and a fine hit my letterbox. It’s a money-making scam - so unfair.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Our position remains that children should not be taken out of school without good reason."

Schools could previously grant leaves of absence of up to 10 days for the purposes of a family holiday in term time in ‘special circumstances’ but the Department for Education changed the rules in 2013.

Now, parents who take their children out of school without permission during term time can incur fines of £60 per parent, per period of absence - which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Parents are allowed to apply for authorised absences - such as for a death in the family - but they must get the required permission from the headteacher. It is also up to headteachers to pass on information regarding the absence to the council before they can hand out a fine.

The figures come after UK's highest court today ruled against Isle of Wight man Jon Platt who challenged a fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday. Mr Platt was given a fine of £120 when he took his daughter away for a week to Florida.

*Have you taken your children out of school for holidays in term time? Email lee.peace@jpress.co.uk