Rainy Day in Disney Magic Kingdom

Don’t ruin your kids education, just for cheaper deals!

If you want the best deals and the lowest line waits, timing is everything when it comes to planning the perfect Orlando vacation.
While January and September are noted for providing some of the best times to visit Orlando for low travel prices and quiet theme parks, it does pay to stop and wonder precisely why!

As kids return to school, demand for travel plummets and so too, the costs.
But before you get the iPad out to book a fabulous flight and luxury Orlando vacation home (at a fraction of the prices of July and August), please bear in mind that the quietest vacation months of September and January are also the most formative of the academic year.
Ask any teacher which months kids should never be absent during, and you will hear back; ‘any’.
But pin them down further, and you will almost always discover that the first month of the academic year and that return to school after the Christmas Holidays, both compete heavily with May’s crucial SATs times in England.
In other words, that bargain deal, could really set your kid’s education back irretrievably.

The English government is on the case, and more and more parents are seeing civil fines being imposed by their local authorities for unauthorised absence.
The old rules that allowed parents to take up to 10 days unauthorised absence per child, are now gone, as a new 10 day criteria for ‘exceptional circumstances’ takes over.
Such circumstances would need to be incredibly exceptional and completely unavoidable in order for the local authorities to waiver those hefty fines that often reach into the hundreds!
The National Association of Heat Teachers defined the term ‘exceptional circumstances” in October of 2014 as an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”.  The new guidance also supports parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.
The wording of the new NAHT guidance clearly suggests that most pupil’s holidays would not be considered exceptional circumstances, and that permission for absence would not cover extended periods either side of the exceptional event.
NOTE: The recently introduced restrictions do not apply to Scotland, Ireland or Wales.

More importantly, if you feel like ‘taking a chance’, please bear in mind the plight of a couple from Nuneaton, who, according to the Telegraph Travel magazine, took a 3 week break to Australia in October of 2013.
This week, both parents received a 12 month conditional discharge for their choice to take their children out of the UK during school term time.
That 3 week trip to Australia cost the parents a criminal record and significant heartache no doubt.

For guests travelling to Orlando from anywhere in the world, our advice has always been to select your dates carefully, and try to strike a compromise between cost/crowds and practicality.
Choose the quietest times in the parks by avoiding the USA school term times if you are able to, but do not ruin your kids’ education.

Whatever happens though, the moral of this story is; Pay Your Fine.
if you do receive one after any unauthorised absence if you wish to avoid a criminal case!


How big is the fine for unauthorised absence form a UK school?

Per child the fine is £60 per absence period.
However, this rises to £120 per absence period if you don’t pay the £60 within 21 days of the first reported absence.
In reality this means that if you take more than two weeks out of school, you will inevitably end up with a £120 fine per child per vacation.
Failure to pay the fines could result in prosecution and a maximum fine of £2500 or a 3 month jail term.
In the first 12 months , since its introduction in September of 2013, 60,000 fines were issued to parents that decided to take their kids on holiday during school term time.

Opposition to the ‘fine the parents’ rules that were introduced in September 2013

Hugely unpopular amongst parents and school’s staff alike, the rule was introduced to replace a system that seemed to work quite well.  Prior to September, parents could seek approval to take their child on vacation for up to 10 days per year.
From our personal experience, this worked well, as parents and teachers discussed their children’s education openly.  Sound advice was always offered to parents and the final say from the head teacher often considered the pupil’s general attendance record.
If a kid was off regularly, the chances of a 10 day holiday during term diminished.
Effectively common sense appears to have been replaced by a very unpopular and difficult to manage rule.

Recently, the Local Government Association’s Chairman, David Simmons said:

“Headteachers know the circumstances of families and what’s going on in their school throughout the year and should be trusted to make decisions without being forced to issue fines and start prosecutions. ”  link to press release

We can only hope that common sense will indeed make this crazy rule a thing of the past very soon, and with the next General Election on May 7th 2015, we can live in hope that the Conservative government that introduced the law, will undo this to try and secure votes.


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