Term-time holiday: All respect to the Sutherland family, but the law's the law - and it's not so bad

Also germane to the issue is the  pumping-up of travel prices during school breaks

Share
Related Topics

Stewart and Natasha Sutherland are probably feeling hard-done by today. The Shropshire couple are having to pay £993 in fines and costs for taking their three children out of school during term-time to go on holiday last September. “The people who make these laws and policies don’t live in the real world,” Mr Sutherland protested.

That may be the case, but most parents seem to find it easy enough to stick to these laws and policies, so is he suggesting that he and his wife shouldn’t have to? The reason why they’re having to pay so much – it could have been £2,000 – is that they’d refused to pay the initial penalty of £360, which makes you wonder what they thought was going to happen if they didn’t stump up straight away.

It’s possible to have some sympathy with them – Mr Sutherland said his job as a Ministry of Defence guard makes it difficult to get time off when he wants, and it was their first family holiday for five years. In further mitigation he said the holiday, to the Greek island of Rhodes, had been booked a year before the law changed last September and schools were told they could only let children stay away in term-time in exceptional circumstances. But as a general principle the law is surely a good one – and if it’s good in principle it’s good in practice.

As far as the Sutherlands are concerned, it might further be argued that it was only a week’s holiday, and it was near the beginning of the academic year, so their childrens’ education is unlikely to have suffered much. And it could be said that the right kind of holiday might be more educational than a week listening to teachers banging on (perhaps the Sutherland brood should have been brought to court and tested on Greek history and culture). On Radio 5 Live this morning two highly experienced teachers spoke about it: one said yes, childrens’ education might well suffer from a week’s absence; the other one said that was rubbish. So who knows?

Also germane to the issue is the scandalous pumping-up of prices during school hols by travel firms. Another voice on Radio 5 Live this morning was a representative of the holiday industry who shrugged her shoulders – I’m sure she did, even if it was on the radio – and said it’s simply a case of supply and demand. So that’s OK, then: the poor travel companies’ hands are tied by the fact that they’re greedy, grabbing capitalist pigs. The government should surely be putting pressure on them – legislating, even – to ensure they don’t profit from the fact that parents are bound by the law.

Perhaps schools should be allowed to set their own holidays, and have more of them, but shorter. That way vacations would be staggered and the travel industry wouldn’t know when to put their prices up. And perhaps there should be a mechanism for parents to plead their cases – being able to take only one family holiday in five years would surely help make a convincing case.

But you can’t blame schools for putting their foot down when attendance records are part of Ofsted inspections. And with respect to the Sutherlands, who were doing what they thought was right, the law’s the law, and it’s not a bad one. I imagine that after this case most families will think very hard indeed about swanning off during term-time.

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The Top Ten: Words In Christmas Carols That Ought To Be Revived

John Rentoul
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas