Schools (Fines for Parents)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 22nd January 2004.

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Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour 2:30 pm, 22nd January 2004

To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is on the reported proposals in England and Wales to fine parents who take their children on holiday during term time. (S2O-1137)

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

Education authorities have had powers since the Education (Scotland) Act 1980. Section 38 of that act provides for attendance orders and section 43 provides for the process of prosecuting and fining those who are convicted of an offence under section 35. There are no plans to change that legislation.

Photo of Michael McMahon Michael McMahon Labour

Does the minister agree that while it is fine to have principles about tuition, they are often too difficult to adhere to in practice? It is right that students should be at school during term time, but is he aware that, for example, a police officer in my constituency has never been able to obtain a holiday during school holidays throughout the time that his daughter has been at school and so has had to take her out of school to enjoy a family holiday? Does he agree that common sense and flexibility are required in these matters? Will he confirm whether any Scottish parents have been fined for taking children on holiday during term time?

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

On the latter point, I can confirm that, since the legislation was enacted, I understand that one parent has been fined, although that was not in relation to taking holidays during term time.

Exceptions are recognised for certain circumstances and groups. Such exceptions relate to, for example, police officers, members of the armed forces, members of ethnic communities who have to go on extended visits overseas and people who have religious or cultural reasons for taking holidays during term time. Decisions on those exceptions are best made at a local level, however.