Unauthorised term-time holiday absences on the rise as Brits try to cut costs of holidays

Families hoping to save cash by going on holiday before the schools break up for summer could face millions of pounds worth of fines, according to new research from Santander UK. In the last full academic year (2014/15) parents were issued with an estimated £5.6 million1 worth of fines for unauthorised holiday absences.

Parents across England and Wales can face fines if they take their children out of school early without prior permission*. The collective value of fines issued between 2012/13 and 2014/15 increased by an estimated £4 million, equivalent to 267 per cent**. This suggests parents are becoming more willing to risk a fine and take their children out of school to avoid the school holiday price hikes. The case of Jon Platt who won a High Court ruling in his favour after refusing to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday sparked much public interest and debate.

The number of fines also increased over this time period by nearly 70,000, rising from 24,853 in 2012/13 to 92,784 in 2014/15 – an increase of 273 per cent. Lancashire County Council issued the most fines*** in 2014/15 (4,279), followed by Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (3,559) and Bradford Metropolitan Council (3,445).

It’s perhaps unsurprising as parents planning an overseas break during the school summer holidays face premiums of up to 68 per cent in some instances, equivalent to an extra £1,7712. On average, trips to some of the most popular overseas holiday destinations such as Spain, France and the USA are 21 per cent more expensive for a family of four between the 6th and 13th of August, during the school holidays, than between 9th and 16th July, just before schools break up for the summer.

Amanda Lamb, travel and property expert commented: “While summer holiday premiums can add an unnecessary expense to a family’s budget, there are other ways parents can look to reduce costs rather than taking a child out of school. Flying in the middle of the week rather than at the weekend can be cheaper as can waiting until the end of August or early September when prices are often lower as most people like to get away at the start of the summer holidays.”

Cash conscious consumers using money saving tactics on holiday
Additional research3 from Santander highlights that taking children out of school in term time is not the only way people cut holiday costs with over three quarters (76 per cent) saying they have used some form of money saving tactics.

A quarter (25 per cent) have chosen to take a flight at an anti-social time, more than a fifth (22 per cent) have taken their own food on a flight to avoid paying for it while 20 per cent have taken items such as coffee, jars of food and washing powder with them to avoid buying them abroad. One in five Britons (20 per cent) admit to having taken food from the hotel breakfast to have for lunch. Worryingly, one in 10 people (10 per cent) admit to not taking out insurance as a way to save cash, despite this having expensive consequences if a medical issue occurs, an item gets stolen or a flight gets cancelled.

Brits go into holiday mode with their finances
Holidaymakers also adopt a more carefree attitude towards finances when abroad, with over a quarter (28 per cent) admitting that they manage their money sensibly when at home but pay less attention when on holiday. Whilst nearly three quarters (73%) of Brits will use online or mobile banking to regularly check their finances when at home, just one quarter (26%) do so when abroad.

A further 16 per cent said they go into “holiday mode” and pay less attention to finances as their trip approaches. Those aged 25 to 35 are most likely to go into “holiday mode” (31 per cent) compared to only six per cent of those aged 55 and over. Just under one in ten (9%) admit to leaving foreign currency purchasing until they reach the airport or destination so they receive an uncompetitive rate. A further 26% of Brits do not tell their bank that they’re going away.

Helen Bierton, Head of Savings at Santander UK, said: “It’s always tempting to splash the cash more than you would normally while on holiday but a simple way to reduce costs is to set a budget and use online or mobile banking to keep track of your spending. Santander also offers automatic alerts so customers can stay up-to-date on their expenditure. Another tip to reduce holiday costs is to shop around for your insurance and travel money before you go away; see if your bank offers any special deals and make sure you’re getting the best value.”

Santander tips to help manage summer holiday spend:

  • Set a budget in advance and try to stick to it.

  • Make sure you’re registered for online and/or mobile banking to monitor and track your holiday spending.

  • Set up text and/or email alerts so you can stay up-to-date with your finances whilst you’re away so hopefully there are no nasty surprises when you get home.

  • Don’t skip insurance as a way to reduce holiday costs. Check with your bank whether travel insurance is offered as part of a deal. Santander’s 1|2|3 World customers receive 30% discount on all new Travel Insurance policies when applying online.

  • Organise your travel money in advance - exchange rates in the airport are more expensive and using an ATM machine abroad means you’ll be charged with a transaction fee as well as paying a higher exchange rate.

  • With Santander’s 1|2|3 Credit Card you won't be charged any foreign transaction fees on purchases when paying in the local currency until 31st December 2016.


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Notes to Editors

1Santander’s analysis of data supplied in response to a Freedom of Information Act request issued on 29th April 2016. Data based on usable responses received from 129 of 174 of the local councils in England and Wales, representing a 74% response rate. Responses based on the academic years: 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15. The analysis covers the fines that were issued by each council rather than the total revenue received.

* Parents are fined £60 per parent per child per period of absence, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents can appeal the fine but if it’s not paid within 28 days, they risk being prosecuted. If prosecuted, parents could be fined up to £2,500 and/or receive a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months. The court will also issue a Parenting Order.https://www.gov.uk/school-attendance-absence/legal-action-to-enforce-school-attendance

** An estimated £1,516,620 fines were issued in 2012/13 compared to £5,572,320 in 2014/15. This is a difference of 267%.

*** N.B. please note that figures are not weighted by the number of schools in each local authority area so those appearing at the top of the table may do so wholly or in part due to a larger number of schools or pupils.

Table one: Top 10 Local Authorities issuing the most fines in 2014/15


Local council Number of fines issued
Lancashire County Council 4,2793,120898
Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council3,5592,218630
Bradford Metropolitan Council3,4451,849452
Leeds City Council3,4352,318218
Derbyshire County Council3,174n/a***n/a***
West Sussex County Council 2,757 2,417719
East Riding of Yorkshire Council2,7142,4491,174
Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council2,3411,380805
East Sussex County Council2,2641,7721,234
Surrey County Council2,2161,514889

Source: Santander, 2016
*** Derbyshire County Council first started introducing fines in the academic year of 2014/15.


2Research conducted online on 6th June using www.expedia.com. All prices based on flights and accommodation (2*, 4* & 5* hotels) for a family of four (two adults, two children) on the week commencing 9/7/2016 compared to the week commencing 6/8/2016. Locations were taken from the top 5 visited locations last year according to the latest ABTA Travel Trends data.

3Consumer research commissioned by Opinion Matters Research (02-07 June 2016) amongst 1,762 adults who have or plan to take a foreign holiday. 

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its 1|2|3 products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. As at 31 December 2015, Santander UK was one of the most switched to banks. The bank serves more than 14 million active customers with c. 20,000 employees and operates through 857 branches and 70 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

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