MPs to debate term-time holiday fine for cancer treatment father


A petition launched by a school parent who took his children on holiday between treatments for cancer only to be fined because it was term time will be debated in Parliament later.

Nearly 200,000 people have signed the parliamentary e-petition calling for the penalties to be scrapped and a term-time holiday allowance to be reinstated.

The debate comes after a father from the Isle of Wight won a High Court challenge against a fine for taking his daughter to Disney World.

Father-of-two David Hedley launched the petition after both he and his wife were fined for taking their daughters on holiday in term time, despite it being the only time they had between his treatments for cancer.

Current rules mean families are forced to take expensive holidays outside term time and councils are "too ready to fine" parents, Mr Hedley said.

His petition reads: "Myself and my wife received a fine for our two eldest children (two fines each parent) for taking our children on holiday for five days in term time which was the only week free from surgery and radiotherapy (school knew of cancer diagnosis). This apparently is not an exceptional circumstance."

His petition attracted nearly doubled the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate in Parliament and the issue will be discussed in Westminster Hall on Monday evening.

It comes after the High Court victory for Jon Platt, a parent from the Isle of Wight who was fined for taking his six-year-old daughter on a family trip to Florida when she should have been in class.

Mr Platt refused to pay the £120 and won the case before magistrates, but Isle of Wight Council challenged the ruling in the High Court.

A judge ruled the magistrates had not "erred in law" and after the hearing Mr Platt said there was "an awful lot riding on this - not just for me, but for hundreds of other parents".

Before 2013 parents could be granted a leave of absence for their children of up to 10 days in "special circumstances" for the purposes of a family holiday.

But the Department for Education overturned the rules, introduced by Labour in 2006, and introduced a penalty system.

Parents currently face fines of £60 per pupil, per period of absence - which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Following the ruling there were reports that several councils dropped cases where parents had refused to pay fines for taking their children out of lessons and on holiday.

The High Court blocked an appeal by Isle of Wight Council, who have since taken their fight to the Supreme Court.

In response to Mr Hedley's petition the Government said: "Every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chance of gaining good GCSEs. The Government is committed to reducing all school absence unless there are unavoidable reasons."