Term Time Holiday and The Law
We are all well aware that going on holiday in the UK or abroad is more expensive in the School Holidays. It is little wonder that this has led to many parents taking their children on holiday during term time. There are laws and as a result more and more parents are being fined and some are even being prosecuted. Here is the latest on what you can and cannot do....
Before we start...
The aim of this guide is to provide parents with the rules and regulations surrounding school attendance, how it differs across the UK and what the consequences might be if you ignore the law.
What you do is entirely up to you. The most important thing is that your child gets a full education and that you are aware that poor attendance can have a hugely damaging effect on your child's education.
What are the rules?
This depends where you live. In England (private schools are exempt), if your child is aged between 5 and 16, you are unlikely to get permission for a term-time holiday and if you do take them out of school you could face a £60 fine or prosecution.
In Wales, head teachers can authorise up to 10 days absence for 'exceptional circumstances' however there is some confusion as to what exactly 'exceptional circumstances' might be and the interpretation of this is left down to the local education authority. Parents can be fined unauthorised absences.
In Scotland, Local Education Authorities can issue 'attendance orders'. Parents are required to explain a pupil's absence and if it is deemed that the excuse is not a 'reasonable' excuse then they can be taken to court and subsequently fined up to £1000 or face imprisonment.
Is it legal?
Yes, there are laws. In England, under Section 444 of the Education Act (England), parents are responsible for ensuring their child attend school ‘regularly’. Failure to do so is an offence under section 444 of the Education Act 1996. The exact definition of this is leading to some legal challenges and questions.
In Wales, The Welsh Government allows for Head Teacher discretion but there are concerns that this discretion is not being used. The Welsh Education Minister has recently written to all Heads informing them that parents can take their children out of school during term time as long as they seek the Head Teachers permission.
In Scotland, the guidance from the Scottish Government states that Schools will not usually give parents permission to take children out of school during term time for holidays. There are however exceptional circumstances where permission might be given.
Why is the government doing this?
According to the Department of Education, ‘poor attendance’ is having a hugely damaging effect on children and those who have high attendance percentages are nearly four times as likely to get 5+ GCSE’s at a good grade than those who are regularly absent.
Is it really such a problem?
There are facts and figures used to back up the government’s case. For example, the Bradford Metropolitan Council said that from September 2012 to Easter 2013, 41,000 days’ worth of school were lost by the kids of the city when parents took them on term-time holidays. They insist that these absences can have a huge impact in the overall progress of their education. Another fact is that a child who takes one week a year from each school year will miss a total of 70 days in their education lifetime.
Is anything being done to help parents?
One idea is that holiday firms could lower their prices during school holidays to make the costs more sensible and the need to take kids on holiday during term-time obsolete. But some sources within the industry say this wouldn’t work and there would just be fewer holiday packages available. Another suggestion looks at varying the term times around the country so that there was no set holiday period. However, Christmas is a fixed date so there’s no way around this fact. Alternatively, parents face the choice between their kid’s schooling and their holidays and have to decide which is more important.