Parents fine nearly £15k for term-time holidays

Parents in Bedford who have taken their children out of school in term-time this school year have been fined a total of nearly £15,000.

Bedford Borough Council confirmed it had issued a total of 98 fines worth £14,820 this school year alone.

Five families also face potential court action for non-payment.

A spokesman for Bedford Borough Council said headteachers do not have the discretion to authorise parents to remove their children from school to take family holidays, in line with government legislation.

The T&C also asked neighbouring authority Central Beds Council about their fines. Up until the end of January the authority had issued 41 fixed penalty notices , of which nine have to date been paid, totalling £540.

11 cases have subsequently been taken to court for non-payment and are pending, and some have been withdrawn.

In the last school year 151 fixed penalty notices were issued.

A number of these were withdrawn for various reasons. 52 were paid, totalling £1,920. Each penalty notice is for £60 and is issued to each parent.

Bedford Borough Council was unable to comment on why its figure was so high compared to Central Beds.

Central Beds Council issues a warning letter to parents first before issuing a fine.

Mark Versallion, executive member for children’s services, said: “As a council we have a duty to protect a child’s right to an education. If children aren’t at school, they are not learning and that is something we take very seriously.

“We would always prefer to take proactive action, working with schools and offering support and advice to parents, to quickly remedy the situation in the interests of the child.”

The issue of steep price hikes from holiday and travel firms during school holidays was discussed by MPs this week.

Center Parcs, which is due to open its fifth resort in Millbrook this year, is one company that does just that.

For a family of four to enjoy a week break at a Center Parcs’ resort, it would cost them £1,828 during the Easter holidays.

But just a week later once the children have gone back to school, they would be looking at £878 - nearly a £1,000 cheaper.

A spokesman for the holiday resort company defended its prices. He said: “It’s about the simple business rule of supply and demand. For us to function as a successful business we need to run at about 97 per cent full pretty much most of the time all year round.

“So we reduce our prices quite heavily during off-peak periods so we can attract people in. We are not your average week away in the sun type of holiday package, we are more about offering short breaks to families.”