A parent facing court for taking his children on holiday during term time said it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that saved him £5,000.

Ivor Watson, 41, of Nutcombe Crescent, Rochford, now faces court after failing to pay a £360 fine for taking his four children out of Holt Farm Infants and Junior Schools in January on the trip to Orlando in Florida.

Mr Watson admits he broke the rules, but says he will never do it again, especially when his children reach secondary school.

However, he does think parents are punished too severely while travel companies rake in the profits of the summer holiday season.

Mr Watson said: “I know the rules, but this was a once-in-alifetime opportunity and going on holiday inAugust was not possible due to the exorbitant costs.

“I think it is a very harsh law. I did it this year as in September my eldest starts secondary school and I knew if I did this in years to come it mayamore detrimental effect on my children’s education.”

He took his children Katie, 11, Jemma, 10, and Honey, eight, out of the junior school and son William, five, out of the infants school for two weeks in January.

He claims he was given a £180 fine from County Hall, which he offered to pay in installments, but that was refused and because he didn’t pay within 21 days, it has been doubled to £360, which he says he has been unable to pay.

Mr Watson now risks getting a criminal record.

County Hall claims it is following Government guidance, which stipulates that headteachers should not grant any leave of absence unless there are special circumstances.

Unless fines are paid within 28 days, the authority will proceed with court action, the spokesman added.

Andy Howe, the executive headteacher of Holt Farm Infants School, said: “I think the policy has had a positive impact on schools and us in particular because attendance has gone up and children are therefore learning more.

“It would be better if holiday firms did not penalise parents and everyone else for going on holiday during the summer and perhaps the Government can find a way of regulating that.

“However, it is a free market and firms are able to charge what they want. I don’t have much sympathy for Mr Watson as I know the impact time off has on learning."