Parents are divided over whether a Stoke-on-Trent school was right to refuse to authorise a family’s term-time holiday to Florida.
Mum-of-four Kirsty Smart hit out at Abbey Hulton Primary School after it failed to to sanction the sunshine break for 10-year-old Lilly-Mae.
Now StoekonTrentLive readers have aired their views on the fine – with some supporting the Smart family and others believing she should just pay up.
Elaine Amison said: “This makes my blood boil – just take your kids and have a fab holiday, memories are to keep forever.
“It’s OK for teachers to have training days and close when they want to.
“As long as they have good attendance and are not behind on anything then I say ‘do it’. Who do these schools think they are? Pay the fine if you have to and go and have a fab time.”
Claire Taylor suggested schools should offer one or two weeks flexible holidays.
She said: “Children can soon catch up on return. It’s not fair on parents who can’t get holidays from work at half term. The prices of holidays need to be evened out throughout the year. That way more families could enjoy a guilt free, affordable holiday.”
Claire Mannion admitted she prefers to take a term-time holiday to save the cash.
She added: “Last year one school fined us £60 each so £120 and the other school said have a nice time and did not fine us but went down as unauthorised.
“We had the fine money included in our holiday fund and we still saved £1,480 on our holiday going in term time so the £120 fine was nothing.
“It’s far cheaper to pay than going in school holidays.
“I will continue to take my kids out of school when we want a holiday as I cannot afford the prices otherwise and the fine is far better than another £1,500.”
Meanwhile, Nathan Maddox believes family time is just as an important as education.
He said: “They deserve the holiday, end of.”
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And Anthony Morris agreed, saying: “Sod the school, take them away. They learn a whole lot more on holiday than in schools nowadays – languages, food and other ways of life that sitting in a classroom learning the three r’s and not much else doesn’t.”
However not everyone was so supportive.
Chris Close said: “Well the rules are there for a reason to be followed.
“The holiday firms have the right to hike prices on holidays as the cost of things keep going up all the time so firms have to cover the increasing costs. This mum needs to stop complaining.”
Graham McLachlan said: “Just pay the fine as it will be far outweighed by the money you saved during term time.
“I’m going to Orlando and the difference is £1,000 less compared to going in school holiday time.”
Liz Williams added: “Pay the fine or go in school holidays. We can’t change the rule. Every child’s needs are different.”
And Mark Bagnall said: “Take them out and just pay the fine. It’s a one-off holiday. If your child is destined to be a brain surgeon then taking two weeks out of school won’t stop that from happening.”
The family – gran and grandad Christopher and Susan Hannon, mum and dad Kirsty and David Smart, and children Katie, Patrick, Alfie and Lilly-Mae – are due to fly out for the two-week break later this year.
It is in memory of Kirsty’s gran Janet Hannon who died two years ago – and her last wish was for her great-grandchildren to go on holiday to Florida.
Latest figures show 961 mums and dads in the city received penalties for allowing their kids to miss lessons in the 2018/19 academic year compared to 396 in 2017/18.
It means Stoke-on-Trent City Council received £36,105.65 in fines in 2018/19 compared to £11,260 in 2017/18.
Penalty notices for unauthorised absences start at £60, rising to £120 if not paid within the first 21 days ‒ and can potentially lead to prosecution.
Abbey Hulton Primary School says its attendance policy is published on its website.
A spokesman said: “We have followed our attendance policy. All parents are aware of the fining process and are regularly reminded.
“Our policy is written to follow local authority and Government guidelines which advises schools to fine parents for unauthorised leave in term time.
“All holidays taken within term time will have a negative impact on a student’s education, therefore we never authorise term-time holidays – regardless of circumstance.
“It is the aim of our school, along with all other schools, that all of our children’s attendance is 96 per cent and above. This is in line with Government expectations.”