Almost 2,000 penalty notices have been issued since May to parents in Cambridgeshire who have taken their children out of school to go on holiday in term time.

School leaders have blamed the cost-of-living crisis which is increasing food prices, bills and mortgage rates as a potential factor for people looking to take their children on holiday during term time. 

Headteachers are calling on the government to intervene on “rip-off” prices for holidays during the summer break, whilst adding that children should not be missing lessons. 

However, parents have argued that taking their children on holiday is no different from the current teacher strikes which have seen pupils miss 11 days of teaching this year already. 

Parents can be fined £60 for unauthorised school absences, which rises to £120 if the fine is not paid in 21 days. 

The rules vary between local councils, with some areas charging a fine per child and others fining each parent for each child. 

One Cambridgeshire parent, who took her children out of school for a week to go on holiday, told us: "We considered all the implications of taking our two children out of school in term time very carefully.

"We booked our holiday at the end of June so it was not disruptive for their education and as both are on track and doing well at school and we don't believe their education has been harmed in any way.

"The exact same holiday we took in June is now £1,000 more for a week in August. We would not have been able to afford a holiday in the summer holidays.

"The holiday companies and flight operators are taking advantage of parents and that is not right. 

"Our children swam every day on holiday; learnt a few words of a new language, used a different currency; tried new food and we got to spend a whole week of quality family time together trying new things. I think they gained far more than the loss of a few days at the end of term."   

What does Cambridgshire County Council say about the matter? 

In the May Census, Cambridgeshire had almost 92,000 pupils across 267 schools. 

Since May 1, Cambridgeshire County Council has issued 75 attendance penalty notices and 1,885 term-time leave penalty notices. 

Penalty notices are issued per parent per child. If paid within 21 days, it is £60 per parent per child but after 21 days it increases to £120 per parent per child. 

The money paid to the county council from the fines is put back into the education service for statutory functions and subsequent legal sanctions in court. 

The table below shows pupil absence rates for Cambridgeshire, both authorised and unauthorised absences, which is comparatively lower than the national average. 

It also shows the percentage of absences due to term time holiday / term time leave absence in both primary and secondary schools. 

Chair of the children’s and young people committee at Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Bryony Goodliffe, said that the small percentage for non-school attendance is “reflective of the work and interventions that schools in Cambridgeshire are implementing to support families where children are not attending”. 

She added that the use of penalty notices for these cases is a “last resort”. 

“Children are required to attend school by law, and it is important for them to attend to gain a valuable education,” she said. 

“In a year, children are expected to be in school for 190 days. The issuing of penalty notices is a legal process, which we are required to undertake when requested by a school.” 

As part of the preparation for the new duty ‘working together to improve school attendance’, the DfE has reviewed Cambridgeshire County Council’s processes, service level offer and collaborative working abilities. 

A scoring system was used where the top score available was 24. 

“Our attendance service achieved a score of 20,” said Cllr Goodliffe. 

“The DfE review stated our processes and strategy were ‘magnificent’ and that our service level offer and preparation for the new duty is rated at the top end for inspections that they have undertaken to date.” 


  • Have you taken your children out of school in term-time, if so, why. 
  • Do you disagree with parents who choose to save money and have holidays in term time?
  • What do you think about the school holiday price hikes?