Are four-year-olds legally required to attend school?

(23 Posts)
Neenz Wed 20-Mar-13 22:58:41

My twins are 4. They are in reception class.

I want to take them on holiday during term time next month (before they turn 5). The head teacher has only approved five of the ten days I have requested.

I know it is bad form to take kids out of school during term time but I thought as they are not five yet they don't legally have to be in full-time education anyway.

Is that right?

What happens now? Do I just take them and see what happens or shall I write back to the head teacher to ask her to reconsider?

Fallenangle Wed 20-Mar-13 23:03:20

You can take them out of school, quite legally, if you wish. You'd be amazed how many head teachers have no idea what the law is. Too late now but maybe instead of requesting permission you should just have informed the school of your intention.

HarrietSchulenberg Wed 20-Mar-13 23:04:37

They aren't legally required to be in full time school until the school term after their 5th birthday.

steppemum Wed 20-Mar-13 23:08:47

They are not legally required to be in school, but I read on a thread recently that if you choose to send them to school you are agreeing to the schools requirements??? Don't know if that is true in this case.

Neenz Wed 20-Mar-13 23:09:36

Thanks for your answers. That is how I understood it. I thought taking them out wouldn't be an issue as they are not 5 yet.

But it seems the head wants to set down markers as it says in the letter that she will not be authorising any absences for my kids for the rest of this year or next year!

I read somewhere that reception attendance is now monitored by the DoE whereas previously it wasn't so maybe she's just bothered about her figures.

I have booked the holiday so there is no question of us not going. I just wasn't sure what the implications of 'unauthorised' absence was for 4yo ie I didn't think it was possible for them to 'absent' due to them not being legally required to be there!

Neenz Wed 20-Mar-13 23:10:24

Steppemum I wondered whether that might be the case too....

steppemum Wed 20-Mar-13 23:17:07

sorry I don't know the actual answer!

nancy75 Wed 20-Mar-13 23:20:42

I'm fairly sure that once they start school they have to attend no matter what age, unless you take them out altogether to home school.

jomidmum Thu 21-Mar-13 08:40:24

NO child is legally required to attend school. Ever.
Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure their child is receiving an education.

AuntieStella Thu 21-Mar-13 08:43:34

You don't have to enrol them in school, but if you have they should attend.

But an unauthorised absence won't matter in the longer run.

Enthuse Thu 21-Mar-13 08:51:04

If you child is under five the figures are not reported to any authiority. So there will be nonconsewuences apart from pain on bum head.

hippo123 Thu 21-Mar-13 08:51:38

It will just go down as an unauthorised absence which the head won't like but there you go. Until they turn 5 they don't have to do any form of education. Take them out and enjoy it and next time don't ask, just tell them what you are doing.

fortyplus Thu 21-Mar-13 08:52:57

I'm a former school governor. You don't have to enrol your child until the term after their 5th birthday. However once enrolled they should attend and abide by the school's policies. If you were to take them out without authorisation for more than 6 weeks then the school could give their places to someone else.

In your case the school will have a policy only to authorise 5 days' absence therefor the other 5 will go down as unauthorised. This would only be a problem to you if the pattern is repeated in the future. It's a way of protecting children whose parents keep them away from school unnecessarily. The Head is not there to decide who are the 'nice' parents and who are not. That's why schools have these clear cut guidelines. It's nothing for you to worry about.

However, a word of caution.... people seem to think it's fine to take very young children out of school and that for some reason it's less important than in later years. In my opinion this is not the case - an older child can easily understand the need to catch up, be given work to take home etc. Your 5 year olds will miss out on what for them is a huge chunk of the early years curriculum and it may take a long time to catch up.

I still think that if people can't afford to take their children away during the school holidays it's far better for the child to miss some school and take the holiday. However if you can afford it I'd say don't take your child out during term time.

WeAreEternal Thu 21-Mar-13 09:04:55

You don't have to send your children to school until they turn five, but if you choose to send them the sept before they turn five that rule is no longer valid, in other words once they start school they are accountable to all of the legal requirements regardless of their age.

I had this exact problem when DS was in reception and under 5.
I did my research, called the LEA but it turned out that I was still accountable to the rules.
I took DS out of school anyway (it was for a family wedding) and I was fined.

I know several other people who have taken term time holidays dispote rejected holiday forms and they have all received fines because of it (in different school and different LEAs)
Apparently they are seriously clamping down on it now.

So you should definitely take the holiday, but be prepared do pay a fine for each day/week missed by each child.

Floggingmolly Thu 21-Mar-13 09:08:54

You don't have to register your children until they're five; but having chosen to do so while they're still four, you're bound by the school rules.
You can't just cherry pick the bits that suit you.
The school can legally remove them from the register, and you'd have to reapply for a place for next September.

Neenz Thu 21-Mar-13 09:11:16

Thanks, it does make sense that once you enrol them they are under the school's rules.

It is a bit awkward though as I am a borough councillor for the local authority and have been asked to join the school governors blush.

But my council role is one of the reasons we are taking them in term time. The two weeks I have booked are a rare fortnight when I don't have any meetings (as a cllr we are severely criticised for taking holidays when there are meetings). Also my husband is a barrister and these are the only two weeks between Jan and Aug that he has no trials.

So we have had to balance the whole family's work/school requirements and unfortunately the school has lost out as I thought they didn't have to be in school. Cost is not really an issue although it is nice that it won't cost as much as it would have done!

Legally they don't have to start til term after they turn five BUT if they strt before that then they do have to attend. You can't use the "5" thing once they r enrolled onto the school and attending.

tiggytape Thu 21-Mar-13 09:26:22

Neenz - when you make the request, parental employment is something that can be considered. For example children whose parents work in the military or leisure and tourism industries often find it impossible to take time off work in the school holidays and can ask the Head therefore to exercise discretion in granting upto 10 days off in term time.
Some schools are very open to this and often grant it.
Some schools and some areas have much more of a zero tolerance policy.
All you can do is ask. If it is granted - great. If not, you can go anyway but it will be recorded as unauthorised.

Neenz Thu 21-Mar-13 09:55:13

I did explain to the head that it was due to our work commitments - obviously our school is one that doesn't allow that as an excuse!

Yfronts Fri 22-Mar-13 17:09:10

my school like most other schools can ok up to two weeks in one academic year.

I keep my reception aged child off when he is exhausted or poorly. I wouldn't think twice about an absence for a family holiday, after all they are very young. In other countries they have a much more child centered approach and children start formal education much later.

Ilovesunflowers Fri 22-Mar-13 18:19:27

Why did you book the holiday without checking this first?

caffeinated Fri 22-Mar-13 20:05:31

Is it just me that thinks its irresponsible to take children of any age out of school for 2 weeks at any age? Surely if you HAD to take them out a week would have sufficed.

caffeinated Fri 22-Mar-13 20:06:31

Of any age x2. My brain is having a snow day.

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