‘Take your child on holiday during term-time and you could face a £1,000 fine’

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Families considering taking children out of school during term-time could face fines up to £1,000, a Newtownabbey teacher has warned parents.

Leigh Cooper from Ballyclare, an officer with the Ulster Teachers’ Union, was speaking in the wake of a High Court ruling which found in favour of a father from the Isle of Wight who took his daughter on holiday during term time.

“This is a perennial issue for schools, children and parents - and I can understand why so many families are tempted to take their children out of school early for often much-needed family holidays if it means saving hundreds of pounds on the cost of the break,” she said.

“However, Northern Ireland parents need to remember that if their child’s attendance falls below 85 per cent then they can be referred to the Educational Welfare Service and failure to work with its officers to improve attendance could result in a fine of up to £1,000 per child.

“There is a far from negligible proportion of children who miss school to go on holiday and it’s something of an intractable problem as market forces dictate that at times of most demand the prices will rise. However, we as teachers would urge parents to think carefully before taking their children out of class.

“Of course, there is the argument that a child’s horizons can be widened by immersing themselves in a foreign culture for a week or two or language skills can be developed and this can be the case, depending on the type of holiday.

“However, parents must always consider what a child stands to miss – perhaps a teacher may start a new topic which will leave the child disadvantaged when they return to school for the new term, for instance.

“Taking a child out of school here and there mightn’t seem like much but the Department of Education at Westminster has calculated that a pupil who takes two weeks’ holiday during term time, combined with average amounts of days lost to sickness and appointments, would miss almost an entire year of school by the time they finished their education,” Leigh added.