More pupils missing school for family holidays, figures show

Number of days missed for family holidays at five-year high

Tes Reporter

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The proportion of pupils skipping lessons for family holidays has risen, official figures show.

Around one in 13 pupils (7.6 per cent) missed at least half a day after being taken on trips in the autumn and spring terms of 2015/16, according to Department for Education (DfE) statistics.

This is up from 7.2 per cent the year before, and includes holidays approved by head teachers as well as those that were unauthorised.

A breakdown of absence by reason shows that one in 20 half days missed were down to unapproved family trips – a five-year high.

This is has gone up from roughly one in 23 half days in the previous academic year, and one in 30 in 2011/12.

The statistics show the proportion of time missed due to authorised family holidays has remained static at 1.2 per cent.

By far the largest reason for pupils taking time off was illness, accounting for 62.2 per cent of absent sessions.

The latest figures come amid continuing controversy over a government crackdown on school absence, introduced in autumn 2013.

Overall, unapproved family holidays accounted for 5 per cent of authorised and unauthorised absences in 2015/16, compared with 4.4 per cent in 2014/15. This had dropped from 4.6 per cent in 2013/14 - the year new rules on school absence, including higher fines for parents if children miss lessons, came into force.

In 2011/12, unauthorised family holidays were the reason for 3.1 per cent of absences.

Under the new rules, head teachers can only grant leave in "exceptional circumstances" and parents face a fine of £60 if they take their child out of school without approval, rising to £120 if it is not paid promptly.

This policy was thrown into doubt in May after Jon Platt won a High Court ruling against a fine issued for taking his daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida.

After the decision, ministers urged heads to continue the new policy, and requested that Isle of Wight council, which issued the penalty to Mr Platt, appeal against the ruling.

Mr Platt said on Thursday: "The evidence shows that family holidays can actually be good for a child's education."

The latest figures cover a period before the May court case.

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