Mother, 33, facing court after taking her son, six, on ‘holiday of a lifetime’ to Cyprus during term time insists it was ‘educational in a way that school can’t offer’


A mother who is facing court after she took her kids out of school for a two week holiday in term time has insisted that the holiday was ‘educational in a way that school can’t offer’.

Leah Hilton, 33, and Hayden Harrop, 30, took their two children, six and three, to Cyprus for 15 days in June 2023 for a family wedding despite only having permission from the school for the first three days.

Ms Hilton says her partner received a £60 fine when they returned home to Gosport, Hampshire, which they paid, assuming that was the end of it.

However, the school say they sent two fines out – one to each parent – and that Ms Hilton never paid her share.

She says the school promised to investigate and get back to her but she assumed the matter was resolved when she didn’t hear back.

Leah Hilton, 33, and Hayden Harrop, 30, took their two children, six and three, to Cyprus for 15 days in June 2023 for a family wedding despite only having permission from the school for the first three days

Ms Hilton says her partner received a £60 fine when they returned home to Gosport, Hampshire, which they paid, assuming that was the end of it

Ms Hilton says her partner received a £60 fine when they returned home to Gosport, Hampshire, which they paid, assuming that was the end of it

The mother-of-two is now being taken to court after not paying the £60 fine despite her claims that it didn’t turn up.

Ms Hilton said: ‘How can I pay a fine I never knew I was supposed to have? How is that possible?’

She added: ‘Me and Hayden did have a discussion about taking them out of school and agreed that it would be beneficial for Mason to take him out of school to have experiences abroad.

‘Tickets for the holiday were non-refundable and had already been booked and it being a wedding meant it was a once in a lifetime experience.

‘We also discussed the possibility of it impacting future exams and decided it would not.

‘When we were on holiday he was able to up close and person with elephants, lemurs and fruit bats.

‘His water confidence improved and so did his mental health – it was educational in it’s own way, in a way school can’t offer.’

The school say they sent two fines out - one to each parent - and that Ms Hilton never paid her share but she says she never received a fine

The school say they sent two fines out – one to each parent – and that Ms Hilton never paid her share but she says she never received a fine

The mother-of-two is now being taken to court after not paying the £60 fine despite her claims that it didn't turn up

The mother-of-two is now being taken to court after not paying the £60 fine despite her claims that it didn’t turn up

Ms Hilton received a Section 444 notice from Hampshire County Council, asking her to enter a plea.

She now faces a fine of up to £2,500 and a prison sentence of up to three months.

The administrator says the council refuse to let her simply pay the fine because it’s too late.

Ms Hilton said: ‘I’ve been losing sleep over this – I’ve just been really stressed about it and trying to get to the bottom of it.’

Ms Hilton says the holiday was 'educational in it's own way, in a way school can't offer'

Ms Hilton says the holiday was ‘educational in it’s own way, in a way school can’t offer’

Ms Hilton said: 'I¿ve been losing sleep over this - I¿ve just been really stressed about it and trying to get to the bottom of it'

Ms Hilton said: ‘I’ve been losing sleep over this – I’ve just been really stressed about it and trying to get to the bottom of it’

A Hampshire County Council spokesperson said: ‘There is well documented research which shows that gaps in school attendance can adversely impact on a child’s wellbeing, learning and progress.

They added: ‘Department for Education (DfE) guidance is followed in advising headteachers not to authorise absence in term time unless there are exceptional reasons to justify permitting the absence.

‘Penalty notices for unauthorised absence can be requested by schools in line with this guidance and, if used, are issued per parent per child.

‘As is standard in the majority of legal proceedings, the County Council provides a certificate of service to evidence that the penalty notice was served by first class post, not that it was actually received by the recipient.

‘This is accepted by the Courts as evidence of service.

‘If a penalty notice is issued and not paid within the stipulated timescales, local authorities, must take steps to prosecute unless it would not be in the public interest to do so.

‘There is no other flexibility for Local Authorities in this regard. Such legal interventions are only used as a last resort.

‘It would not be appropriate to discuss individual circumstances, particularly while they may be subject to separate legal proceedings, and therefore we are unable to comment any further.’



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