A couple have blasted barmy Government guidelines after they took their two children on a term time holiday and were fined £120 by one of their son’s schools – but nothing by the other.
Michelle Parrish, 40, and husband Robert, 46, took their kids, who attend two different schools less than a mile apart, out of lessons for a dream Caribbean cruise in October.
They informed both headteachers months in advance and revealed their whole family had been invited along for the once-in-a-lifetime holiday to celebrate two birthdays.
The pair explained they could not take the two-week break any other time in the year due to Robert’s work commitments and Cameron, 14, and Miles, 10, went on the trip.
But after returning back to the UK they were stunned when they were fined £60 each for Mile’s absence by St Margaret’s Junior School in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s school Wolstanton High – which is in the same borough and comes under the same LEA – had no problems with his time off.
Michelle slammed the decision to punish one but the not the other – considering her sons both have an impeccable 98 per cent attendance record.
She fumed: “I’ve never done anything like this before and both my kids have brilliant attendance.
“But why in the same borough can two different schools give different answers? It makes no sense.
“I applied months in advance, explaining that our entire family was invited on their once-in-a-lifetime holiday which could not be taken during school holidays.
“My dad, Kevin, bought it as a present to celebrate his present, but also my 40th out there.
“There were seven of us, and this was the only date we could do. I told both schools months in advance.”
“I told both schools exactly the same thing and sent them proof that my husband couldn’t go on holiday unless it was in term time.
“When you can prove exceptional circumstances, parents shouldn’t be fined.
“Both of my children have since caught up on all their schoolwork.”
The family, who live in Basford, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs., appealed the decision but it was rejected.
They were threatened that if they did not pay the fine by the end of the day yesterday (Mon), it would double to £240.
Michelle, who works as a sessional worker for pre-school kids and the elderly, added: “Every bone in my body doesn’t want to pay it, but they’ve got us over a barrel.
“If we don’t pay it it doubles, and after that we’d have to go to court. That’s a lot to go through, and we just don’t have the money.”
The date took weeks to set because of Robert’s work, but also due to Michelle’s two sisters and one of their husband’s schedules.
Sales executive Robert added: “So many special family occasions were rolled into that holiday, including two birthdays.
“So it wasn’t something we could put off and do another time.
“I can’t understand how one school can give their blessing while another is having none of it.
“It tainted our good memories of the holiday.”
St Margaret’s headteacher David Hugill said: “We follow Government guidelines which set out that holidays in term time have a detrimental effect on pupil progress and should therefore only be authorised in exceptional circumstances.
“We carefully consider the individual circumstances before coming to a decision.
“Each school considers leave requests for their pupils, according to its respective policy.
“We cannot comment on Wolstanton High’s decision to approve it on this occasion.”
Wolstanton High School headmaster Alan Aston said: “There are Government guidelines we follow but ultimately it is to the discretion of the school to decide within the circumstances.”