A HAMPSHIRE couple who were fined for taking their child on holiday were told to get a credit card to pay it off.

John and Naomi Witcomb from Harestock took their son Harry, seven, to Norfolk for a week in June.

But when they were hit with the £120 fine just two days after coming back from the vacation - which itself cost just £180 - they asked Hampshire County Council if they could pay in instalments.

They were referred back to the school, but Harestock Primary School's head teacher Jackie Sankey suggested they get a zero interest credit card to pay it back, saying payment by instalments was not an option.

John, 60, a hotel night supervisor, said: “We asked for permission to take the holiday, but were told it wasn’t special circumstances.

“But we haven’t had a holiday for four years because we can’t afford to go in the school holidays. We went to Norfolk to a holiday park where it’s £620 in school holidays, but £180 in term time.

“We thought we would be able to pay £20 a month back or something. I was made redundant a couple of years ago so money is tight. I found work quite quickly but I don’t think it’s a responsible thing to suggest, getting a credit card."

Naomi, 31, works in Aldi. She said: “£120 is a month’s worth of food shopping for us. It’s £60 fine per parent per child.

“The only way we can have a holiday is to go in term time. When she suggested we get a credit card that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

John said his son Harry had had “100 per cent” attendance until the family holiday, with only three days off sick since starting school - and both parents made sure Harry was in school for SATS and other important dates.

Jacqueline Sankey, headteacher, said: “I have met with the parent and apologised personally for the advice she received from the school - albeit a well intentioned suggestion to resolve a difficult situation, as the fine increases if not paid within 21 days. Naturally, I am extremely sympathetic to this parent’s case. However, the issuing of penalty notices for unauthorised absence from school, for a family holiday, is a matter of law, being an alternative to prosecution.

"As such, neither I, nor the local authority, have any power to either extend deadlines for payment, or to offer any flexible terms for payment. I would happy to have a further meeting with the parent, to discuss her concerns.”