170,000 parents sign petition demanding children be allowed time off school without fines

Thousands of parents have signed a petition demanding children to be allowed two weeks off school without being fined.

Campaigners say it's lower income families who are penalised as they can't afford trips in the school holidays. More than 170,000 parents have signed the petition amid rocketing prices for holidays abroad.

Currently, any parent who takes a term-time holiday faces being hit with a £60 fine per child. This increases to £120 if it's not paid within 21 days.


However, under new rules that it soon set to rise to £80 and £160 respectively. The online petition - titled 'Allow students to be taken out of school for two weeks a year without penalty' - is quickly gathering pace and has already amassed 176,000 signatures since it was created last month, the M.E.N reports.

It states: "Families face school fines for taking their children out of school to go on affordable holidays. This can be a particular issue for low-income families, and families with children that have additional needs, who want or need to avoid busier and more expensive periods.

"I feel these families are being discriminated against as they may not find it possible to travel outside of term time, as it could be too costly or overwhelming, with travel, queues, noise, busy airports, busy public transport, busy resorts etc. We think it's unfair that these families and children might not be able to go on holiday because they can't take time off during term time.

"Parents may also have additional needs that would make travelling at busy times difficult."

Any petition with more than 100,000 signatures is considered for debate in Parliament. However, with the government stepping up its efforts to boost attendance, which has fallen dramatically since the pandemic, it would mean a huge U-turn for such a move to be approved.

Nearly 400,000 penalty notices were issued to parents in England in 2022-23 for unauthorised school absences, which was much higher than pre-pandemic levels. The increased fines will apply from August 2024.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said school absence fines will be brought under a national framework to help tackle inconsistencies in their use across England. Under the new measures, which have been announced as part of the government's efforts to try to cut down on the number of children who are regularly missing school, every state school in England will share their daily attendance registers with the DfE, councils and academy trusts.

The DfE hopes the data set will help schools spot and support children at risk of persistent absence, or in danger of becoming missing from education. It says its guidance will take a 'support first' approach, so that in cases where the absence isn't related to an unauthorised holiday, all other avenues to get that child in school have been exhausted before a fine is given.

Despite the planned increase in fines, parents have previously told us it will make little difference to whether people take their kids out of class or not. Many of them said that the 'extortionate' cost of holidaying when kids are off means it's worthwhile paying the fine to save potentially thousands of pounds.

A DfE spokesperson said: "We know that regular school attendance is vital for a child's wellbeing, development, and attainment. Parents have a duty to make sure their child regularly attends school and should avoid taking children out of school during term time. We support schools and local authorities to use enforcement measures where appropriate.

"The government will be responding formally to the petition in due course."