THERE has been a dramatic increase in the number of parents fined for taking their children out of school without authorisation.
In the past 12 months, the number of fines handed out in Swindon has risen from around 700 to almost 1,300.
It is a trend seen across the country with many parents saying the cost of going on holiday during the school holidays means going during term time is the only viable option.
There are calls for a change in legislation to either bring the cost of holidays down or give parents more flexibility.
One such parent is Vicki Farthing, of Greenmeadow, who says while she has not been given a fine, she has not been able to visit her dad in the Isle of Man with her 15-year-old daughter Teri because of the high costs.
She said: “I can fully understand why the number has gone up so much. The cost is so much higher during the school holidays that it is just not worth it.
“My dad lives on the Isle of Man and we haven’t been able to see him for ages. It is £800 during the holidays but drops to £350 during term which is a massive difference.
“My daughter would benefit massively from seeing her grandfather and what the place has to offer but it is not possible.
“When Teri was in primary school the headteacher said she could have three days off for a christening in Spain. Because she was well behaved and ahead of her work this was fine.
“That’s how it should be. Obviously if the child is a hell-raiser and behind then they shouldn’t be able to go on holiday but the good kids should not have to suffer.”
Carrie McColl, 33, of Gorse Hill, also thinks parents should have more freedom.
She said: “My daughter starts primary school in September so we have already had the letter explaining the rules and the fine.
“I think that if a child is attending school 99 per cent of the time then I’m not sure what difference a few days is going to make.
“I remember being taken out of school for a few days and I wouldn’t change that experience. Stopping them is taking away the right to parent.”
A petition was signed by several hundred thousand parents calling for action to be taken earlier this year, prompting a debate in parliament.
Swindon North MP Justin Tomlinson was involved and called for a new approach to be taken to school holidays.
He said: “In Germany holidays are spread over a longer period for different regions which is what I would like to see here. So for example all of the South West goes on holiday and then the Midlands takes a different time.
“This would benefit parents because everyone would not be going on holiday at the same time and the travel industry would be in favour so business isn’t confined to a six week period.
“We have gone some way in addressing this issue but I think there is more we can do.”