Parents must accept that holidays don’t come first

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All parents will relate to this dilemma. There’s the chance of cheap family holiday, but the snag is that the break is in term-time. If you wait and book in the school holidays, the price will shoot up, making it unaffordable.

So what do you do? Do you take advantage of the better price and take your child/children out of the classroom, even if it is marked down as an unauthorised absence?

Or do you accept that your children’s education must come first and that you have a responsibility to ensure they are in the classroom when they are supposed to be?

That means the cheap holiday will have to be missed and a more expensive alternative somehow afforded, or maybe there will be no break at all.

Of course, all parents should, however reluctantly, take the second option. Because our children’s education is far more important than the prospect of saving money on a holiday.

The problem is that there are still too many parents out there who get their priorities all wrong.

Today we reveal that in the academic year of 2010/11, 488 fines were handed out by Portsmouth City Council to parents for taking their children out of school to go on holiday. Last year, this figure rose to 551.

Meanwhile, 169 fines were handed out in 2010/11 to parents whose children had had an unauthorised absence – or truancy. Last year this figure again rose to 221.

It is heartening to see that persistent absentees across the city are down by 1.3 per cent from 1,603 last year, to 1,329 this year during the autumn and spring term. This drop is mirrored across Gosport, Fareham and Havant.

But the truth is that too many parents are still prepared to risk fines and even a court appearance for the sake of a holiday.

Richard Harvey, programme leader in child support services at Portsmouth City Council, says: ‘We want to be sending a very strong message to parents to think twice about it.’

We agree. There are only 39 weeks in the school year. We should do all we can to ensure our children are at their desks during that time.