Unauthorised term time absences on the rise as parents try to cut holiday costs

Families hoping to save cash by going on holiday before the schools break up for summer could face millions of pounds worth of fines, according to new research from Santander UK. In the last full academic year (2014/15) parents were issued with an estimated £5.6 million worth of fines for unauthorised holiday absences.

Parents across England and Wales can face fines if they take their children out of school early without prior permission*. The collective value of fines issued between 2012/13 and 2014/15 increased by an estimated £4 million, equivalent to 267 per cent. This suggests parents are becoming more willing to risk a fine and take their children out of school to avoid the school holiday price hikes. The case of Jon Platt who won a High Court ruling in his favour after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday sparked much public interest and debate.

The number of fines also increased over this time period by nearly 70,000, rising from 24,853 in 2012/13 to 92,784 in 2014/15 – an increase of 273 per cent. Lancashire County Council issued the most fines in 2014/15 (4,279), followed by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (3,559) and Bradford Metropolitan Council (3,445).

It’s perhaps unsurprising as parents planning an overseas break during the school summer holidays face premiums of up to 68 per cent in some instances, equivalent to an extra £1,771. On average, trips to some of the most popular overseas holiday destinations such as Spain, France and the USA are 21 per cent more expensive for a family of four between the 6th and 13th of August, during the school holidays, than between 9th and 16th July, just before schools break up for the summer.

Amanda Lamb, travel and property expert commented: “While summer holiday premiums can add an unnecessary expense to a family’s budget, there are other ways parents can look to reduce costs rather than taking a child out of school. Flying in the middle of the week rather than at the weekend can be cheaper as can waiting until the end of August or early September when prices are often lower as most people like to get away at the start of the summer holidays.” 

Cash conscious consumers using money saving tactics on holiday

Additional research from Santander highlights that taking children out of school in term time is not the only way people cut holiday costs with over three quarters (76 per cent) saying they have used some form of money saving tactics.

A quarter (25 per cent) have chosen to take a flight at an anti-social time, more than a fifth (22 per cent) have taken their own food on a flight to avoid paying for it while 20 per cent have taken items such as coffee, jars of food and washing powder with them to avoid buying them abroad. One in five Britons (20 per cent) admit to having taken food from the hotel breakfast to have for lunch. Worryingly, one in 10 people (10 per cent) admit to not taking out insurance as a way to save cash, despite this having expensive consequences if a medical issue occurs, an item gets stolen or a flight gets cancelled.

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