Term-time holidays: the latest
You might have heard about the recent ruling in favour of a father who took his daughter on an unauthorised holiday during term-time. But although the case has reignited debate over term-time absences, it hasn't set a legal precedent - until government guidelines are officially updated, the rules for parents haven't changed.
What ARE the current rules?
The most recent guidelines state that periods of absence can only be granted in "exceptional circumstances" - a definition that sadly does not account for a family getaway. On the other hand, an overseas funeral or a religious festival might be authorised.
Until 2013, pupils were allowed up to two weeks off per year for family holidays - at the discretion of head teachers. This changed when then-Education Secretary Michael Gove introduced guidelines requiring headteachers to take a harder line on requests for absence.
If a child is taken out of school without the absence being authorised, parents are reported to their local authority and will face a fine of £60 per child - rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Those that fail to pay at all can face prosecution, with a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.
The rules apply to pupils five and over in state schools. Independent schools and the devolved governments of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own policies.
What about the recent court case?
The father in this case - Jon Platt - originally appealed a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised holiday to Disney World. The fine was overturned as he successfully argued that the current law only requires parents to ensure their children attend school regularly - generally regarded to be anything above 90% attendance.
The Local Government Association has spoken out in favour of the ruling, calling for 'a commonsense approach' and suggesting the government should find a sensible solution that does not tie families to set holiday periods. The spokesperson added: "It shouldn't be that a tragedy has to befall a family for a child to get leave during term time."
Can I book a term-time holiday now?
Alas, it's inadvisable. The
Department for Education has announced its disappointment with the judgement,
and has accordingly pledged to close the loophole and strengthen its commitment
to full attendance. As such, though many parents are hoping to have existing
fines overturned in light of Platt's case, it is still
unlikely that a head teacher will authorise a term-time holiday. And
there's still the risk of fines.
What do parents think?
A Mumsnet survey in 2015 showed that 81% of parents feel annoyed about the higher cost of peak time holiday, and two thirds say it prevents them from going away.
71% believe that the government should issue revised guidance, giving headteachers the ultimate say and removing the statement that holidays are unlikely to be approved.
Mumsnetters on term-time holidays:
"Education isn't just about books and classrooms. Children also learn from travelling and experiencing other cultures and environments."
"Common sense would dictate that power is put back into the hands of the head teachers to decide on a case by case basis whether to authorise an absence."
"Whether it's illegal or not, it really isn't an ideal thing to do. There are plenty of days throughout the year when children aren't expected to attend school when they could go on holiday."
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Last updated: 8 months ago