Parents who took their 14 year old son out of school, without permission, for a five day holiday, ended up with a £1,200 bill and a visit from the bailiffs.
They were originally fined £120 over their sons unauthorised absence from Sweyne Park School in Essex. Following an unsuccessful appeal the couple were taken to court under the Education Act 1996. This act allows education authorities to impose fines on parents who fail to send their children to school.
The Telegraph reports: They were convicted in their absence and ordered to pay fines of £200 per parent plus costs and a victim’s surcharge.
The amount was left unpaid and court bailiffs arrived on the family’s doorstep threatening to remove items to settle the debt.
They were even threatened with prison if they refused to co-operate.
Essex County Council was accused of acting like the Stasi over the methods used to secure the sum, although a council spokesman said the decision to employ bailiffs was taken by the courts service.
The boy’s grandmother, from Benfleet, Essex, paid the bailiffs in full to avoid goods being confiscated.
The grandmother, who asked not to be named, said: “My son rang me in a state of panic and I in turn rang the bailiff who informed me that if the eye-watering fine of £1,230 wasn’t paid immediately they would force entry and remove goods to the value.
“These goods would then be auctioned and all charges would be added to the bill, making an estimated total of £3,500, while inability to pay would have automatically incurred a three month custodial sentence for both parents.”
She added: “He’s a bright boy, my grandson, and he could easily hack five days off.
“I know it was wrong to take him out of school, but I thought the punishment was completely out of proportion – I thought it was a bit Stasi and Big Brother.”
The couple took their son on holiday to Spain last year, pulling him out of the 1,300-pupil academy, which was rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, in its most recent report in 2010.
In November they were convicted of failing to ensure their child regularly attended school under the Education Act 1996.
The family appealed unsuccessfully against the fine, and did not pay.
On March 6 bailiffs arrived at their home in Hullbridge, Essex, they were visited by bailiffs demanding the full sum.
The grandmother said the action to send in the bailiffs was “draconian”.
“My grandson had never been in an aeroplane and [his mother] wanted him to have the experience,” she said.
“Part of the problem is the tourism industry, which deliberately hikes up prices during the summer holidays.
“It’s quite a sober warning to other parents.”
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Parents have a legal duty to ensure regular school attendance for their children who are registered at a school.