Parents confused about legality of term-time holidays

  • Two thirds of parents (65%) left confused following a recent High Court ruling 
  • One in five (1.7 million) families planning term-time holidays in the next year even though its still illegal
  • More than 74,000 parents were fined for taking children on holiday during term time in 2014/15 — a 55% increase on the previous year — at a combined cost of £4.5 million
  • Majority of local education authorities say they are strict on fining parents except for North Tyneside Council, Milton Keynes Council, Warrington Borough Council and London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, who are more lenient

Parents have been left confused as to whether it’s legal to take their child out of school for a holiday.

According to research among parents by esure travel insurance, two thirds (65%) of parents are confused about whether or not they are allowed to take children on holiday during term-time following a recent High Court ruling.

The ruling stated that children could be taken out of school for term-time holidays as long as they have a good attendance record. However, the Department of Education has told the local council involved to challenge this in the Supreme Court — and the schools minister, Nick Gibb, has advised head teachers to ignore the ruling and continue to enforce fines on parents1.

As a result of the initial ruling, parents say they are now more likely2 to take their children on holiday during term-time — with 1.7 million3 (21%) planning to do so in the next year alone.

In the meantime, according to the latest Freedom of Information data, obtained by esure, local authorities are issuing an increasing number of fines to parents who are taking their children out of school without the school’s permission for a cheaper term-time holiday. In fact, the number has risen by 55% when comparing the last two academic years.

The FOI responses received show more than 47,157 parents were subject to fines during the 2013/14 academic year, which climbed to 74,278 in 2014/15 at a collective cost of £4.5million4.

Yet the £60 fine dwarfs the inflated prices that families face for holidays away during school holidays, which can cost more than double the normal price5.

Current rules stipulate that parents are only able to take their child on holiday during term-time if they make a successful application to the head teacher ahead of the trip, or if there are ‘exceptional circumstances6. If neither of these applies, then parents can be subject to a £60 fine from their local council — which doubles to £120 if it isn’t paid within three weeks7. In some circumstances, legal action can also be taken8.

When asked if they were strict about fining parents for taking their children out of school nearly all councils said they either adhered to the rules outlined by the Department of Education or refused to respond — except four local authorities. North Tyneside Council, Milton Keynes Council, Warrington Borough Council and London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames said they were not strict about dishing out fines, suggesting they are slightly more lenient and flexible on families residing in their area rather than an enforcing a blanket ban.

Nikki Sellers, Head of Travel Insurance at esure said: “It’s no wonder parents are feeling confused when they’re finding themselves hearing contradictory messages. On one hand, they see a father told that he was allowed to take his child on holiday, while some local councils are still enforcing fines on those who do this.

“The difference in cost for taking a family trip away during the school holidays versus during term-time is huge, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re willing to risk a £60 fine. But when trying to save money, it’s important that families don’t cut back on travel insurance and leave themselves at risk.”


For more information: 
Sinead Meckin or Matt McKenna at Third City on 0203 657 9773 or[email protected] 
Emma Banks, [email protected], 01737 235107 / 07894 158605

Notes to editors:
esure issued a Freedom of Information request to all 151 local education authorities in the UK in May 2016. 70% (105) had replied with data at the point of collation. The FOI request asked the number of fines they had issued to parents for taking a child on holiday during term time and for ‘unauthorised absences’ over the past three years — and whether they would say they are ‘strict’ when it comes to fining parents for taking their children out of school for a holiday. 
In addition to this, esure also commissioned Opinium to conduct research on its behalf among 562 parents with children under 18. This looked at whether the recent High Court ruling had left them feeling confused, if it made them more or less likely to take their child on holiday during term-time and if they planned to book a term-time holiday in the next year. 
esure is an efficient personal lines insurance business. Founded in 2000 by Chairman, Peter Wood, Britain’s foremost insurance entrepreneur, the company is a leading provider of car and home insurance.

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[2] Source: Opinium. 46% of parents said they were either ‘more likely’ or ‘likely’ to book a family holiday during term-time in light of the recent High Court ruling. 
[3] Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS), Office for National Statistics — there are 7,926,000 families with dependent children. 21% of 7,926,000 = 1,664,460 = 1.7million. 
[4] Average fine (£60) multiplied by the number of parents who received a fine in 2014/15 (74,278). 
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