Taking your kids on vacation during school time may keep you from shelling out a ton of cash, but it’s not necessarily a great idea. In the U.K., for example, you run the risk of incurring a fine by doing so – therefore potentially negating any savvy savings. When Daniel Moore was penalized for having removed his son from school, however, he had the perfect response.
Moore lives in Exmouth, a coastal town in south-west England. And like many dads, he wanted to take his family on a warm and sunny vacation. Unlike other fathers, however, he didn’t stick to the designated vacation periods all schools in England work around. Instead, he chose to take his five-year-old son out of school.
Generally, all English students have around 13 weeks off each school year, staggered throughout the calendar – including two weeks off at both Christmas and Easter and a six-week break over summer. It’s easy to see, then, why going away during those designated periods can be far more expensive than at other times.
So, it’s also no wonder that some parents choose to save money by going on vacation outside of those periods – that is, during term time. And that’s exactly what Moore did when he headed to the sunny destination of Mallorca in May 2018; his wife, Samantha, and his children, Charlie and Alice, were also in tow.
However, it may have come as no surprise to Moore when he received a letter issuing him with a penalty fee. That’s because in the U.K., the punishment for taking your child out of school for a holiday without getting permission in advance is £60, or $77. And if you don’t pay the fine within three weeks, that sum will double.
When the letter arrived, however, Moore noticed that there was something not quite right about it – something, in fact, he quickly took to task. Yes, while his son may have missed some potentially valuable school time, it was Moore himself who came up with an awesome, grade-A comeback to the message he’d received from his local council.
In particular, Moore had realized that the letter was full of errors. For one, “the” was spelled “hte”; the “c” was also missing from “notice”; and there was no space between the words “amount of.” In fact, there were a whopping seven spelling and grammatical mistakes in total throughout the note, which had come from Devon County Council’s Head of Education and Learning.
Moore then took to Facebook, writing that while he isn’t a “spelling guru or typing expert,” he’s “also not the Head of Education in the county.” His primary concern wasn’t with the fine at all, in fact, but that someone so high up in the education sector had approved a letter with so many obvious errors.
So, the displeased dad took – surely – the only reasonable course of action; just like a teacher, he grabbed a red pen and marked up every single mistake that he could find. Then, at the bottom of the page, he graded it as a D minus, writing, “Must try harder. ‘Head of Education in Devon’… Come on!”
Moore then posted a snapshot of his graded version of the letter to social media, calling the council “hypocritical.” He also promised to send the letter back to the authority and even joked that he may include a photo of himself on vacation with his family.
Still, despite Moore’s grievances with the quality of the letter, he nevertheless said that he would “pay the fine, no questions asked.” He added, “At first I thought it was quite funny. But when you place it into the context that these people are responsible for the future of children’s education, it is concerning.”
In response, the council blamed the series of errors on a new printing system. A spokesperson for Devon County Council said, “We have been trialing a new IT printing system, and a number of mistakes were unfortunately not picked up before this letter was dispatched. It is an embarrassing error, and we have taken steps to ensure it won’t be repeated.”
That response didn’t go down too well with everyone, however. Indeed, one commenter wrote on the Daily Star website that the errors were simply “sloppy and lazy.” Another said on the local news website Devon Live, “It doesn’t matter if they’re trialing a new printing system or not, it’s still the idiot who types the information who can’t spell or use grammar.”
Meanwhile, Moore’s Facebook post went viral, garnering over 3,400 reactions as well as 1,100 shares and nearly 600 comments. And plenty of people weighed in to support the dad of two. For instance, Jody Breitenbach wrote, “Taking your child on holiday can be just as educational as having them attend classes.” Beth Flanders added, “Typo or grammatical error – the writer seems either uneducated or careless.”
For Moore, however, the issue goes beyond just the inaccuracies in the letter. In a column he wrote for newspaper i in August 2018, the frustrated father pointed out that his child had gained some valuable knowledge during their foray overseas. He mentioned the benefits of introducing his son to new cultures and explained that the child had learned some Spanish vocabulary and numbers while on vacation.
Moore also highlighted how the system put in place by the council to penalize parents taking their kids out of school actually wastes money rather than saves it. In fact, between 2013 and 2018 Devon County Council suffered a nearly $58,000 loss from the costs of running the penalty scheme compared to the income it had generated in fines.
Finally, Moore noted that while he had indeed taken his son out of school, he had informed his child’s teacher as to the move. The teacher had then given the five-year-old further work and reading material to make sure that he kept up with his classmates. “As parents, when you don’t even have the right to decide when, where and if you can holiday with your children, it leaves a very bitter taste,” Moore wrote in his i column.
Nevertheless, while Moore has agreed to pay the fine with a check, there are other parents who have either refused to do so or not gone about it so willingly. For instance, one dad paid the entire $77 fine in pennies after taking his six-year-old son on vacation to Egypt in 2017. Another father actually went to the U.K.’s Supreme Court over his fine – although he ultimately lost the case.
And figures suggest that fines aren’t enough to deter parents from ensuring that their children attend school. Close to 20,000 parents receive penalty notices or are otherwise prosecuted every single year in the U.K., according to the Ministry of Justice – with some mothers and fathers even being handed jail sentences because of their children’s unapproved absences from the classroom. And yet a 2017 study by GoCompare has discovered that more than half of British parents would be happy to go on vacation with their kids during school time, since the travel savings are worth more than the fines.
But whether or not parents choose to risk those fines, they likely don’t expect to get a letter full of as many mistakes as the one that Moore received. There’s no denying, though, that that dad’s sublime comeback sends him straight to the top of the class. Indeed, you could even say that Devon County Council has been well and truly schooled.