With the cost of holidays being higher in peak times, many parents turn to cheaper alternatives which involve taking their children out of school during term time.
Since the Department of Education brought new rules into force in 2013, these term time holidays can come at the cost of a fine. But earlier this year, one family fought the fine in the High Court, and won.
Whilst the rules from the Department of Education remain unchanged, the High Court verdict has resulted in confusion for parents, schools, and local authorities across the country.
Tonight sent Freedom of Information requests to all of the 152 local education authorities in England. Based on responses from 102 local authorities, 84 of which provided figures for the penalties they had given to parents, 65,000 fines were handed out for term time holidays in the last school year (between September 1, 2015 and July 31, 2016).
Based on the standard fine amount of £60, the total of the fines issued adds up to around £4 million pounds. And since production finished, the Tonight programme has received responses from a further 25 local authorities, bringing the total to 88,841 fines. Based on the standard fine amount of £60, this would add up to over £5 million in the value of fines issued. The number of parents who paid their fines is not known.
Ranvir Singh meets Jon Platt, who found himself in the headlines in May this year when he scored a major legal victory over a fixed penalty notice issued by his local education authority.
The programme explains how the High Court ruling in Jon Platt’s favour has had a noticeable effect on England’s local education authorities. Three of England’s five largest local authorities - Kent, Essex and Hampshire, have told Tonight that the number of fixed penalty notices they’ve issued have gone down since the High Court Ruling.
And at least seven LEA’s - Bury, Cornwall, Derbyshire, Dorset, Oldham, North Yorkshire and Staffordshire - have gone as far as to suspend fixed penalty notices where children otherwise have a good attendance until the law is definitively clarified.
David Blackwell, Head teacher at Springfield Primary School in Derby, says they take a pragmatic approach to the issue with parents at their school.
ITV approached the Department of Education for an interview but the request was declined. Instead, they issued the following statement:
The Truth About Term Time Holidays: Tonight is on ITV at 7.30pm and on The ITV Hub shortly afterwards.