A story from the Isle of Wight caught my attention last week when I saw this headline in my Twitter feed: “Term-Time Ski Holiday Ruling May Be Challenged In Supreme Court.”
Intrigued, I read on.
And then I double-checked to make sure I wasn’t being spoofed.
Fines For Missing School
The story begins in September 2013 when England’s Department of Education instituted a policy that children can only miss school under “exceptional circumstances.”
If they are otherwise absent, even with parental permission, their parents face an initial £60 ($80) fine, which escalates to £120 ($160) if not paid within three weeks. If the parents continue to refuse to pay, they will be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £2,500 ($3,313) or up to 3 months in jail.
And while you might think that perhaps this applies only to the tiny Isle of Wight, an English Channel outpost of 140,000 people, it is a national policy.
Even more amazing than that (at least to this North American mom), the parents of 50,414 children were penalized and paid the fine in 2014-15.
Proving a Point
In April 2015, Jon Platt, a father of three took his family (his youngest is just 6 years old) to Florida to visit Walt Disney World. Upon returning, the Isle of Wight Council slapped him with a fine. He objected, refused to pay and the Isle of Wight Magistrate Court ruled in his favor in October 2015.
Displeased, the local government appealed the ruling to the High Court. And in the meantime, Mr. Platt took his family on a February ski vacation to Lapland (northern Finland).
Again, he was fined.
In May, the High Court refused to hear the Council’s appeal and referred the case to the Supreme Court. The upper court has not yet decided if it will hear the case.
Mr. Platt, who considers the £13,000 ($17,211) incurred in his defense “money well spent,” has become a champion for the rights of parents. In his mind, paying the fine would be admitting to criminal conduct, when all he did was take his children on vacation.
Or as he put it in a Telegraph article, “We are not arguing on behalf of people whose kids don’t go to school, I’m arguing on behalf of people whose kids go to school every single day and maybe once a year they take them out for five days.”
Yes, I Have An Opinion. Do You?
One fall before my sons had started public school, I met a grandmother at Legoland California. Chatting with her, I expressed regret that this might the last family vacation we could take in late September. She scoffed at my naïveté and told me that family time always outweighs school time.
“You’re the parent. You can decide if your child can miss school,” she said, speaking firmly.
I took her words to heart and through the years we’ve allowed our sons to miss school to visit family, because they were exhausted and needed a day off, to ski, or because, yes, we were going on holiday.
Just last week, we made plans for our son to visit colleges. His itinerary includes missing the first three days of the fall semester because that’s the only time these visits would fit.
I totally understand that for some kids, who miss school frequently due to adverse circumstances or habitual truancy, time out of the classroom can be harmful. They need to be in school.
But for just as many kids, who attend faithfully, do their homework, get good grades and study for every test, a day off can be beneficial, while a family vacation can provide some much-needed bonding time.
I think these kids deserve a trip to Disney World.
What do you think?
Sources (lest you think I made this up): IntheSnow.com (Term-Time Ski Holiday Ruling May Be Challenged in Supreme Court), The Telegraph (Jon Platt is a middle class hero for his crusade against ridiculous term-time holiday fines) and The Telegraph (Father wins ruling at High Court on term-time holiday challenge).
- Homeschooling to Ski: One Family Turns the Calendar on its Head, May 23, 2016.
- Skippin’ School, October 13, 2010.
- No Regret Parenting, September 9, 2013.
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