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Sharp rise in term time unauthorised holidays

50,000 increase in holiday absences last term despite landmark court ruling

Unauthorised family holidays on the rise

50,000 increase in holiday absences last term despite landmark court ruling

The number of children being taken out of school on unauthorised family holidays is increasing and much more common among primary pupils, according to new government figures.

Figures published today show pupils were taken out of school 378,225 times for family holidays that were not approved during the autumn term of 2017.

This was up almost 50,000 on the autumn term of the year before and over 100,000 more than five years ago, when the figure was 256,280.

Figures from the Department for Education show that unagreed family holidays are more common at primary school where they account for 10 per cent of all absence from school. At secondary school, they made up 4.9 per cent of absences.

The government changed the guidelines on term-time holidays in September 2013 by saying that headteachers should only grant leave “in exceptional circumstances”.

Isle of Wight parent Jon Platt has been involved in a legal battle after being fined £60 for taking his daughter to Disney World in Florida during term time.

Magistrates decided Mr Platt had no case to answer as his daughter had regularly attended school and this decision was backed by the High Court.

Landmark case

However, the Supreme Court decided last April to uphold the right of a local authority to fine parents who take their children on holiday during term time.

In what was seen as a landmark legal case, the Supreme Court has said that taking a child on holiday during term time without a school's permission cannot be lawful.

However, more than one in 20 pupils were taken out of school on an unauthorised holiday in the first term of this academic year.

The latest DfE figures show that 5.6 per cent of pupils missed at least one session of school during the autumn term of this academic year compared with 5 per cent in 2016/17.  

However, despite this, overall pupil absence from primary and secondary school has remained the same as last year – at 4.3 per cent of half-day sessions. Within these figures, authorised absences fell slightly from 3.3 per cent in the autumn term of 2016 to 3.2 per cent in 2017 and unauthorised absences increased from 1 per cent in 2016 to 1.1 per cent in 2017.

The total number of days missed because of absence has increased from 19.6 million to 20.1 million but this reflects the increase in pupils enrolled in schools.

Today’s figures also show a slight increase in the number of pupils who are classed as persistently absent – missing 10 per cent or more of their lessons.

There were 772,750 pupils persistently absent in autumn 2017. This was 11.5 per cent of pupils, up from 11.4 per cent in autumn 2016.

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