Fines for holidays in term time need to change, says Portsmouth mum

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MUM Helen Louth is appealing to the government to change the way it deals with parents taking their children out of school for holidays in term time.

Helen and husband Steve were fined £240 when they took their children Maxi, eight, and Jessica, six, to Morocco for two weeks in June.

(l-r) ''Maxi Louth, Helen Louth and Jessica Louth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142303-103)

(l-r) ''Maxi Louth, Helen Louth and Jessica Louth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (142303-103)

It was the first holiday they had been on together, as they are unable to go away in the school holidays because Steve can’t get time off work.

His job involves doing building work at schools, which can only be done when they are shut.

The Louths paid £1,800 for the holiday but it would have cost double if they had gone during the school 

Helen, 37, of Sunningdale Road in Baffins, said: ‘The saving far outweighs the fine, but it’s not about that.

‘This was the first family holiday we’ve ever had. We don’t go on caravan holidays.

‘Our budget just doesn’t cover it. It was the first time we have ever taken the children out of school.

‘We had a lovely family holiday. The children had lots of fun. It gave them a good understanding of the different cultures.

‘What they got from another culture far outweighs those two weeks in school.’

The children attend Langstone Infant and Junior Schools.

Helen added: ‘We applied to both schools for the time off and they were both declined.

‘We do need something to happen. I feel there’s no consistency. It’s down to the head to choose.

‘I do understand how disruptive holidays during term time could be but fail to see why some allowances aren’t made for young children who have excellent attendance records.

‘I feel that those of us who are hard-working and honest are being discriminated against.’

Donald McIntyre from the attendance service at Portsmouth City Council said: ‘Our guiding principle is that each child has a fundamental right to be educated and any failure to do so by the parent denies them greater life opportunities.

‘Parents do have a legal duty to ensure their child is educated and any absence from school could have an impact on a child’s long term educational progress.

‘Absences are only authorised if there are exceptional circumstances.

‘There’s no right of appeal against a penalty notice and this is clearly stated in all information that parents and schools receive.’

It won’t deter me from doing it again - parent

HELEN isn’t the only parent to express her concerns about the fines process.

Caryl Purdy, 33, from Owen Street in Southsea took her seven-year-old daughter Chloe on holiday for two weeks in June.

She is a single parent who works full time.

She saved £700 by going during term time.

She said: ‘Even with the fine my holiday is less than half the cost of a holiday in the summer holidays, and it certainly wouldn’t deter me from taking Chloe out of school again.’

To read The News’ view on this click here.