The law on ... Term-time absence
Now that the summer break is here, many parents will be looking to take their children on holiday. The only thing is, prices at this time of the year are often inflated by travel companies and airlines and as such, many families find it financially difficult to take their children away. As a result, a lot of parents take children on holiday during term time when it is cheaper and less busy.
Is this lawful? In exceptional circumstances, a child can be granted a leave of absence of 10 school days but only if there is a "good reason", according to the Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 1995 as amended by the Education (Pupil Registration) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006. This is at the headteacher's discretion.
However, headteachers are usually reluctant to authorise holidays during term time because they feel that children should miss the least possible amount of education. They feel it is disruptive and places more pressure on children because they have to catch up on work that they have missed.
Parents, on the other hand, argue that family holidays can also be educational for children as they are exposed to different cultures, languages and values.
Parents do not have an absolute right to remove their children from school during term time. A leave of absence must be sought from the school and granted by the headteacher alone. The headteacher, in deciding whether to grant leave of absence to a child, will consider several factors such as: their attendance record throughout the year, whether the child has any imminent exams and at what time of year the holiday is being requested.
If the request is refused by the head but the parent takes their child away, the absence will be marked as unauthorised and the head may refer the matter on to the local authority. The parent is then at risk of receiving a warning (in the first instance) or a fixed penalty notice fine of up to Pounds 100. See www.dcsf.gov.ukschoolattendance.
What to watch out for
Given the level of the fine, there is a risk that parents will continue to take their children out of school during term time as the saving on the holiday could potentially be more than the fine.