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Fines, prison and airport checks: European penalties for taking your kids out of school for holidays

Flights are cheaper but there are costs for Europeans taking their kids out of school for holidays.
Flights are cheaper but there are costs for Europeans taking their kids out of school for holidays.   -   Copyright  Canva   -  
By Angela Symons

As the cost of living crisis bites, a controversial trend is emerging: parents taking their kids out of school to take advantage of low season rates.

“There’s definitely a trend of parents willing to face the wrath of schools to get the better deal,” says Liz Mathews, general manager at Flight Centre UK.

After surveying parents on the phenomenon, the travel agent found that 67 per cent were considering taking their children out of school to secure a cheaper holiday.

But what are the consequences?

In the UK, parents can be fined between £60 (€68) and £2,500 (£2,846) for taking their kids out of school. Yet 36 per cent of parents surveyed said they would consider

factoring this into their final holiday cost if it worked out cheaper overall.

How much cheaper are flights outside of school holidays?

Soaring costs are already stretching holidaymakers’ budgets. During school breaks, things get even harder. Consumer champion Which? reports that half-term flight prices are up 42 per cent on pre-pandemic levels.

In some cases, the reality is much more extreme. At the time of writing, return flights from London to Menorca cost as little as €50 in mid-October. A week later, when British schools are on half term breaks, the same flights cost €242.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why some parents are risking holidaying during school time - particularly with the fuel crisis and inflation hitting their wallets.

Here are the penalties parents could face for taking their children out of school across different European countries.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Austria?

In Austria, schooling is compulsory between ages six and 15.

If an unauthorised absence of more than three consecutive days is reported to the authorities by the school, parents could face fines of €110 to €400 or up to two weeks' imprisonment. More than three unexcused absences may be classed as an administrative offence.

Absence can be requestedat the Ministry of Education with proper reasoning. If an approved reason is not given and parents fail to respond to an enquiry, their children could be expelled from school and parents could face bi-weekly visits from Austria's Youth Welfare Services.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in France?

In France, school attendance is compulsory for children aged three to 16. Authorised absence may be granted for various reasons, including a ‘child following their legal representatives (travel outside school holidays)’, according to the French government website.

Parents who are unable to justify their child’s absence or lie about it risk a fine of €135. If absences compromise your child’s education, you could face two years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to €30,000.

In practice, however, this is rarely enforced as it requires that the ‘Education Nationale’ authorities take the case to court.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Germany?

In Germany, schooling is compulsory from age six to 16. Parents can be fined for taking their kids out of school without permission from the school’s headteacher. Repeat offenders may even face prosecution.

Fines vary by state, ranging from €35 per day in Bremen up to a possible €2,500 total in Berlin.

German police have been known to actively check airports for families taking unauthorised school-time holidays, communicating with schools to assess whether absence has been cleared.

Parents may apply for an exemption from their child’s school, which will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The level of leniency depends on the headteacher.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Hungary?

In Hungary, schooling is compulsory from age three to 16.

There is some leniency for parents taking their children out of school. The school year is split in half, and within each half parents may remove their child from school for up to five days without having to provide a reason.

However, they must first seek permission from the school, which will be granted based on the child’s behaviour and performance.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Italy?

In Italy, schooling is compulsory from age six to 16. Parents taking their children out of primary school could face a fine of up to €30.

It is generally understood that you cannot take your children out of school during term time. There may be slightly more flexibility for children in private schooling. If absence damages your child’s progress, they could be made to repeat the year.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, schooling is compulsory from age five to 16.

School absenteeism can be fined at €100 euros per day up to a maximum of €600 euros per family for one week and €900 for two weeks.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Norway?

In Norway, schooling is compulsory from age six to 16.

Leave of up to two weeks can be granted by the headteacher if it is in the interest of the child’s education.

Fines can be issued to parents who take their children out of school without gaining permission. However, these are only usually pursued when a child has been away repeatedly or for a long period.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Spain?

In Spain, schooling is compulsory from three to 16.

Absenteeism can result in fines, prison sentences of three to six months and, in extreme cases, loss of parental rights. However, these rules tend to be more dissuasive than enforced.

Fines vary as they are set locally by municipalities. These are generally capped at €1,500 for serious cases, but in Madrid they can be as high as €30,000. However, fines are only likely to be pursued in cases where a child misses more than 20 per cent of classes in a month.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in Sweden?

In Sweden, schooling is compulsory from age six to 16.

Primary school students may be granted a short period of time off for ‘certain trips, family celebrations or religious holidays’. These must not exceed 10 school days per academic year and are at the discretion of the headteacher. Leave is granted based on a student’s performance and behaviour.

What are the rules on taking kids out of school in the UK?

Parents in the UK face fines of up to £2,500 (€2,850) or even imprisonment for up to three months for taking their kids out of school.

Fines start at £60 (€68) per parent, rising to £120 (€137) each if they are not paid within 21 days. After 28 days, prosecution is a possibility.

Any school-time absence must be pre-authorised by the head teacher and requires ‘exceptional circumstances’ - the terms of which are left to the school’s discretion. Flight Centre’s survey revealed nearly half of all parents surveyed believe that a holiday can be counted under this banner.

Milder consequences of taking your child on holiday during school time without the school’s permission include being issued a parenting order by the court. This means you have to go to parenting classes. You may also be issued with an education supervision order or a school attendance order.