How can we agree holidays during term time?
With the supreme court confirming that Jon Platt did commit an offence by taking his daughter out of school for a week to go to Disneyland, it has raised the question of what separated parents should or should not do in these circumstances.
I do not intend to comment on the rights or wrongs of removing children from school during term time for holidays. Opinion is generally divided on this and there are usually strong arguments for and against.
However, what can be done now, if your ex wants to take the children out of school for a holiday during term time?
Well, hopefully the answer should be relatively simple.
The first thing you should do if you want to take your child out of school is to discuss it with the other parent before you make any booking. It is always much harder to discuss such matters once you have gone ahead and booked something anyway. There may be special deals that will run out, and I know from experience that procrastinating on newly released Easy Jet flights can cost you several hundred pounds, but it is far easier to agree matters before you have spent a few thousand pounds.
If you both agree that your children can be removed from school, you can write to the school requesting permission which, especially in England will normally be declined (Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland all have slightly different rules).
The school do not fine you – it is the local authority that do this, and it would be fair for the parent taking the child away to cover the £60 cost of the fine.
The issue comes if you cannot agree, which is exasperated further if you have already booked the holiday. The standard 3 methods for resolving any dispute are as follows:
1) You try and agree between yourselves
2) You try mediation
3) You ask the court to decide, which involves considering option 2.
There are other methods of dispute resolution, but I will focus on these 3. So, if you cannot agree between yourselves as parents, you could try mediation. An issue such as this may cause the mediator difficulties though. The mediator should align themselves with what a court may decide, so it puts them in a difficult position. They are in effect helping you mediate an agreement that breaks the law. There is certainly no point going to court to ask them to make a decision whether you can remove a child from the school during term time for a holiday. Mr Platt has done that for you and the answer is no!
There are always exceptions to the rule. A head teacher still has discretion to allow holidays when a member of the armed forces is returning from service; for a family funeral abroad, or other exceptional circumstances. But a family holiday would not normally fall under such criteria, even if it is the only one you will ever be able to afford and it is such a good deal!
So, my advice to you as parents, is to either agree between yourselves or, if you cannot agree, then the current law applies. Which is why you should always have this agreed before you even consider making a holiday booking during term time.
Happy (legal) Easter Holidays!