Seven days = 3 months gaol

By | Category: Travel rumblings

the bay at Lindos on Rhodes –

Both The independent and Metro ran a story earlier this week about parents who took their children out of school time on a holiday to Rhodes for seven days last September. Both parents could face gaol if they fail to pay the fines imposed yesterday. Is this a fair outcome?

We have discussed the arguments pro and ante the removal of children in school time but it wasn’t until the new legislation came in that we can assess what reaction there will be. Draconian seems to be the answer if the response of Telford and Wrekin council in Shropshire is anything to go by.

The Sutherland family appear not to have to have been aware of the legislation and booked their holiday eleven months in advance. It is unclear if they asked the school’s permission as even under the old legislation they should have done. Having paid all the holiday costs they went ahead claiming that they hadn’t had a holiday for five years and desperately needed one.

The school or the authorities must have decided to go ahead with a fine so a bill of £360 was sent. The Sutherlands refused to pay. Yesterday they appeared before magistrates in Telford to explain themselves and were fined £630. Will they pay this or will they fight on further? Kay Burford, from Telford and Wrekin council, said the legislation was clear on the matter, adding: “Significant absence from school is disruptive to the child’s education and has a detrimental impact on attainment.” As one comment posted by MonkeyBot 5000 on The Independent’s website put it in response to that comment, “Unlike locking up their parents?” And what is “significant absence?” The local paper, the Shropshire Star ran a online poll as to whether people thought children should be taken out of school during term time and over 77% said yes.

Most comments I have seen posted seem to decry the council attitude. xxyyzz123 posted – again on the website of The Independent – “Utter madness and hypocrisy! I have lost count of the lessons that my children have lost to absent teachers, inset days and, the real peach of them all, ‘academic tutoring’.”

The general view seemed to be that missing those days from school would not be detrimental. The children’s behaviour and schooling has improved massively since our holiday,” said Mr Sutherland in the Metro interview. But will he be supported in that by any teacher of his children? Any teacher would have to be brave to say that a child was unaffected particularly given who pays their salaries. Would you believe the parent or the teacher?

Yes, the Sutherlands broke the law but how the authorities have reacted makes this whole story is unpalatable to most people. The council shouldn’t have been so holier than thou in saying the law is the law and wanting their pound of flesh. Couldn’t they have just warned the Sutherlands and said next time you will be fined? You might have thought that a grace period in the first month might apply. You might have thought that – given it was booked before the legislation came into force – that a bit of discretion might have been used. But no, the council has reinforced a general feeling that bureaucrats just follow the rules and can’t think for themselves.

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