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The Truth About Term Time Holidays: Tonight

Ranvir Singh presents The Truth About Term Time Holidays on ITV at 7.30pm Credit: ITV / Tonight

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.

Credit: ITV / Tonight

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.

Jon Platt Credit: ITV / Tonight

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 Credit: ITV / Tonight

David Blackwell, Head teacher at Springfield Primary School in Derby, says they take a pragmatic approach to the issue with parents at their school.

We took the approach that we wouldn't automatically issue a fine. We try and understand where parents are coming from, which is often around cost, and is often around being able to get time off work. Whilst, at the same time, we strongly recommend that parents take their children during school holidays.”

– David Blackwell

ITV approached the Department of Education for an interview but the request was declined. Instead, they issued the following statement:

The rules are perfectly clear - children should not be taken out of school without good reason. That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence. The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances – vindicating our strong stance on attendance.”

– Department of Education statement

The Truth About Term Time Holidays: Tonight is on ITV at 7.30pm and on The ITV Hub shortly afterwards.

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