Fife Matters: Tough to find the balance between school and family life

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Summer’s here, allegedly, and with it brings the prospect of families packing their bags and heading here, there and everywhere in search of a much-needed break.

But for those families who perhaps can’t fit their summer holidays in with the designated school holiday period, the lure of the Great Scottish Getaway has its pitfalls.

I’m sure you all read about father Jon Platt south of the border, who was fined £120 for taking his daughter on holiday to Disney World in Florida during term time, refused to pay it, and took his legal fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

And despite his seven-year-old boasting an attendance rate of more than 90%, the father – somewhat ludicrously in my humble opinion – lost his landmark legal battle.

You may say that the rules are different in Scotland and there are no such automatic fines in place.

You’d be right, of course, but it’s wrong to say there are no sanctions.

Here, it is entirely up to a school and local authority on what action it decides to take if a parent takes a child out for holidays and is not granted permission.

It’s not explicitly clear what that “action” is, but in some instances “attendance orders” can be issued to make a parent explain why their child is not in class and, if parents don’t comply or give a reasonable excuse, they could face up to one month in prison and a fine of up to £1,000.

I’m sure that will only happen in the extreme cases, but even having that hanging over a mum or dad’s head is entirely wrong in my view.

I fully sympathise with Mr Pratt down south, and all the families in that situation. It’s very difficult sometimes for parents with school age children to get leave during the school holidays.

And with companies chancing their arm when it comes to cost, can you blame some for taking the risk? One holiday I saw recently for a family of four in the north of England jumped from £499 at the beginning to July to £999 at the end of the month.

Of course I also respect the opposite view.

Some days off can be disruptive to a pupil’s learning. Having knackered my knee cartilage while playing in the playground in primary seven, which resulted in me being off for an enforced extended period, I’m all too aware of what time away from the classroom can do.

But surely it has to be up to the parent what’s best for them and their kids as a family?

If that means taking the little ones away for a few days during term-time, then I know what I’d do.