Families fined £21,000 for term-time holidays

School fines Staveley Parents. Mandy and Dean Smith with letters and wedding picture.
School fines Staveley Parents. Mandy and Dean Smith with letters and wedding picture.

Hundreds of Derbyshire parents have racked up more than £20,000 in fines - for taking their children out of school during term-time.

In just three months the new zero tolerance approach to unauthorised absences has left many families counting the cost as schools bid to boost attendance.

Since September, when the new legislation was enforced, Derbyshire County Council has collected £21,540 in penalty fines from 359 parents - including an Inkersall couple who took their son out of school so he could attend their wedding.

Parents are fined £120 per parent, per child which is slashed to £60 per parent, per child, if paid within 21 days.

Derbyshire Times readers have blasted the rules as unfair. Ann Smith said on Facebook: “Cash strapped families try to grab a bargain holiday where they can, just a shame the best bargains are in term time! A week here and there didn’t really do me any harm.”

Jo Darwesh added: “We need to focus on those who miss school as regular habit not the annual holidaymakers.”

But a headteacher said the legislation is aimed at preventing youngsters from missing vital education and absences during term-time should only be for “exceptional circumstances.”

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council, which collects the fines, said the money paid for the scheme to be administered and they do not make a profit.

Dean and Mandy Smith, of Stanley Avenue, Inkersall, were hit with the bill after being told their wedding was not a ‘special occasion’ by the school.

The family was fined £120 for taking their son out of Netherthorpe School during term time.

The couple applied two years in advance to take their son Brad, 14, out of class for ten days so he could join the celebration on a Mediterranean cruise.

But Dean, 40, said he was outraged after receiving a letter from the school last week saying they would be fined.

He added: “We’ve not had any answers about what is classed by the headmaster as a special occasion.

“The week before the wedding my son’s school report showed 100 per cent attendance up to that time. This has tarnished what should have been a special occasion.”

Since September the government has tightened the rules on taking children out of school. Parents can no longer remove children for a family holiday - instead head teachers will only allow pupils time off in exceptional circumstances.

Schools now refer parents who ignore the law to the county council.

Mandy, 39, said: “We are not opposed to the rules and agree children should be in school but this was a special occasion. All the other children who attended the wedding had their respective absences authorised.”

Dean, who has paid the fine, said: “This is not a matter of money but rather the school’s assumption that I am not able to be a parent and make the correct decisions for my child.”