Driving school

“I drive to work during train strikes, can I charge my neighbors for a lift?”

All of that considered, it only seems fair that your neighbors are participating. But we all know that dealing with neighbors can be tricky. You might decide it’s not worth having the tough conversation if it means staring at each other over the garden hedge for the rest of the summer.

Instead of charging them a fee, perhaps you could offer to drive your neighbors only halfway through town. Alternatively, you could ask them to reciprocate and give you a boost at some point in the future?

Whatever you decide, going forward, you should do what you can to reduce your fuel costs. For starters, it’s usually cheaper to refuel at the supermarket. You can also try driving more efficiently to reduce the amount of fuel used.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below and via email. [email protected].

You can also ask us any questions (and anonymously) using the email address above.

Last week’s moral money: ‘Should I take my child out of school to go on a cheap holiday?’

Dear Moral Money,

My five year old son has recently started at the local primary school and I suddenly realized that for the next 13 years or so we will only be able to go on holiday during the school holidays.

The worst part is that we haven’t been away for years. Like everyone else, the pandemic put an end to holidays and before 2020 we were not financially able to take time off.

More and more of our son’s classmates seem to mysteriously disappear from school for a few days or even a week. Officially, the child is sick, but it’s an open secret in the playground that he was taken out of school to save on vacation costs.

At first I got the upper hand morally, but now I’m seriously considering joining them. A week-long trip for the three of us to Center Parcs in Suffolk would cost £2,500 in August, up from £1,000 in mid-September.

My own parents would never have dreamed of taking me out of school, but everything is so much more expensive these days and it might be the only way to get a decent break.

Either way, a physically active vacation with two caring parents is enriching in ways a classroom never could.

I’m not suggesting we do this multiple times a year, and I would never release it during exam season. Is there really a problem if he misses a week of school? Everyone does it and I don’t see why we should miss it.

-Ben L, Brighton

First of all. It is a legal obligation for your child to go to school from the age of compulsory schooling. This is December 31, March 31 or August 31 following their fifth birthday, whichever comes first. They must then start school the following term and stay there until the age of 16 and then until the age of 18 in full-time education, or an apprenticeship or other form of training.

Boards and schools can use various legal powers if your child misses school “without just cause”. You can receive a ‘parenting order’ or be fined £60 per parent, up to £120 per parent after 21 days. In extremis, you could be prosecuted and fined up to £2,500, given a community order – or even jailed for up to three months.

Is it really worth the risk?

In reality, few parents are ever fined, let alone prosecuted. Of course, we could never recommend breaking the law, but we’re all craving a vacation after the last two years, and seeing other parents exploit the system to book cheap trips must be deeply frustrating if you’ve always followed the rules.

As you say, there is value for a child to be gained from a trip to the Pyramids or Rome or even Center Parcs, especially if the choice is between a stay or not at all.

To feel vindicated, you really need to make sure the break improves your son’s upbringing and experiences: Sitting on a beach for a week and refueling at an all-inclusive resort isn’t going to elicit much sympathy.

Some readers might also point out that the age of the child is of vital importance. Missing a week of school at 15, with GCSEs looming, is surely a different story than when your son is five.

If you don’t decide to go for moral reasons, would you consider alerting the authorities to other parents who are breaking the rules?

One thing I’m sure we all agree on is that children should go to school as much as possible. Up to 100,000 children are thought to be missing since schools reopened after lockdowns. This is the real tragedy.

Poll Results: Should our reader take their son out of school to go on vacation?

Yes – family memories are more important than a few school days – 47pc

Yes – but you should take them somewhere that enhances what they are studying – 14pc

No – your child’s education is too important to take a break for a cheaper holiday – 26pc

No – breaking the law for a happy holiday is out of the question – 13pc