School Penalty Fines and Authorised Absence — [Mr David Hanson in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:57 pm on 11th July 2016.

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Photo of Peter Heaton-Jones Peter Heaton-Jones Conservative, North Devon 4:57 pm, 11th July 2016

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. The Minister said that this debate boils down to the definition of “exceptional circumstances”; under any definition, what the hon. Gentleman has just described would be exceptional.

It is absolutely right that the Government have a duty to ensure that parents send their children to school and that children have a full academic record, but my fear is that the 2013 guidelines put us in a field of unintended consequences. They are having a serious effect on many families in my constituency and further afield whose only crime is to want to take a holiday when they can, or to take their children away based on some other perfectly reasonable grounds or exceptional circumstances. The guidance is well intended, but I fear that, in the lack of flexibility that is being applied to its interpretation in some quarters, it is having unintended consequences. Otherwise innocent parents, who simply want the best for their children and are the right people to know what is best for them, are being criminalised. I hope I can work with the Minister, co-operatively, to put things right.