How Yorkshire schools can issue £480 in fines for taking your children on holiday

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It's the same every year: you want to fly away with the kids to soak in a bit of sun, but all the prices during half terms and school holidays are eye-watering...

Well, if you don't get permission from the school first, you could be hit with fines running into hundreds of pounds, or even a criminal conviction and jail time.

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How much are the fines for taking my child out of school?

The fine system is national, government legislation, but the fines are administered locally by each council.

That means that each authority has a slightly different approach in how it issues fines, and when the fines are triggered.

The cost is £60 per child per unauthorised absence, which then doubles to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

That means that you could be looking at £240 in fines if you took two children out of school for one day without permission and failed to pay within 21 days.

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Fines for both parents

But some councils issue the fine per parent, effectively doubling the amount a family would pay altogether, whereas others issue a flat fine per child.

In Bradford, for example, one family could pay £480 for two children both taking a single unauthorised absence at the same time, or £240 if the fine was paid within 21 days.

Leeds Council also issues fines per parent, per child.

Leeds Council states: "In Leeds we have determined that a penalty notice will be issued for unauthorised absences of 5 days or more within a 12 week period.

"This includes absences for holidays as well as other unauthorised absences.

"If a penalty notice is issued, it will be for the whole period of the absence.

"So the penalty would be the same for an absence of 5 days or 10 days.

"For example, a parent could be issued with a £60 penalty if their child misses 1 day of school each week over a 5 week period, whilst another parent might be issued the same penalty for a single 2 week absence.

"The penalty will increase to £120 if the notice is not paid within 21 working days."

In Sheffield, the fine is per parent, but the authority will only issue one fine per parent even for multiple children in the same family. So two parents and two children would be £120 for the family to pay (or £240 if not paid within 21 days, not £480).

Sheffield Council's official information states: "If you take your child on holiday in term time without their Head Teacher’s authorisation, you may be issued with a FIXED PENALTY NOTICE (a fine). Normally this will be one fine per parent regardless of the number of children in the family being taken on holiday."

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When is a fine issued? Is there a set period?

The legislation from government, introduced in 2013, says the fine is payable if a child fails to attend school 'regularly'.

The term 'regularly' was tested in court in a case in the Isle of Wight and was deemed to mean 'in accordance with the school's rules'.

As such, every authority has a slightly different rule about when the fine is payable.

For example, in Leeds, the local authority says it won't issue a fine until a child has missed five days within any 12 week period without prior permission being granted, according to the authority.
The fine is an alternative to going to court, so you can't pay it and then decide to have your case heard in front of a magistrate. But if you do pay the fine, you can't also be taken to court afterwards.

What if I don't pay the fine?

If you don't pay the £60 (per child, per parent in some cases), it doubles to £120. If you don't pay in 21 days, you can be taken to Magistrates Court under the Education Act 1996.

If then found guilty, you could end up with a criminal record and be fined up to £2,500 and a jail sentence of up to three months.