Zurich parents taking their kids out of school early to get cheaper holidays

Zurich parents taking their kids out of school early to get cheaper holidays

While it may be tempting for families to take their children out of school before the end of term, it can come with significant truancy costs. Despite this, a new report from the Tages-Anzeiger has found that many families in Canton Zurich are choosing to pay the absence fine in order to take advantage of cheaper flights and hotels before the start of the school holidays in Switzerland.

Over 100 families in Zurich are fined for school absences

The Tages-Anzeiger found that in 11 of Canton Zurich’s 12 districts, 107 families have pulled their children out of school without "permission, prior warning or an acceptable reason" in the last decade. Of those, seven have ended up in court, with one father in Bülach claiming he was taking “action against the unjust fine to the last breath.”

According to Catherine Nägeli Diethelm, school governor for the Andelfingen district, those that do pull their kids out of school risk fines of between 80 and 800 Swiss francs, depending on how many days of school their child misses. In extreme cases, the emergency services or school board are able to issue fines of up to 5.000 Swiss francs for “disregarding parental duties in connection with school operations.”

Zurich truancy fines often cheaper than extra holiday travel costs

However, according to Nägeli Diethelm, most parents simply accept the cost outright, as the fine issued by the school is often cheaper than the extra costs associated with flying out of Swiss airports during the school holidays. In many cases, prices before school breaks are significantly cheaper than during the holidays, and with the cost of flying set to rise across the board, truancy fines are becoming more financially reasonable.

This was highlighted by the governor’s predecessor in 2012, when he fined a couple 1.500 francs each for taking their child out of school early - the amount of money saved on flights and hotels by travelling earlier, according to the governor's calculations. The case eventually made it to the Federal Supreme Court in Lausanne, where the mother’s fine was reduced.

Swiss families finding new ways take children out of school early

Alongside those that simply do not apply for time off, the Tages-Anzeiger noted that many parents have figured out ways of getting their children out of school early, without suffering a fine. For example, the newspaper cited a case where a couple applied for an absence just before the end of term. When this was negotiated down to half the requested time, the parents informed the school that the child was sick, allowing her to go on holiday much earlier than permitted.

Concluding their report, the Tages-Anzeiger said that the issue has been made worse by each district having its own process to request more time off, with some far more lenient than others. The Zürichberg school district, for example, allows a holiday extension of between one and 12 weeks per school level in primary and secondary, whereas the Letzi school district only allows breaks if it includes “exceptional family occasions and special occasions of a religious or sporting nature.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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