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Holiday - Exceptional Circumstances

(234 Posts)
StarlightMcKenzie Thu 05-Sep-13 09:59:34

Okay, I know this has been done to death, but dd is about to start school next week and this topic is really stressing me out, especially given we have just had the wonderful 6 week holiday and my children have developed so much I feel they are an essential part of their childhood.

DS has ASD, and is in a special school, who are flexible to his needs and would grant any term-time holiday on the basis of his sensory issues and need for places to be less busy, with more space, less queuing and quieter etc. We've done some camping and selected sites carefully but this won't be an option until next summer.

DD is starting a mainstream primary and unless they agree to termtime holidays we won't be able to go away, or even simply visit museums etc. as a family. In fact, because ds will be at home in DD's holidays, she will never get the opportunity to go places that children from typical families get to go to.

How likely is it that the HT will authorise absences? She stated in the open evening that she NEVER authorises absences for family holidays.

What do you think she 'would' authorise an absence for that would enable us to spend time as a family on fun things and also educational things?

mistlethrush Thu 05-Sep-13 10:07:03

You do have what might be considered 'exceptional' circumstances. I would find out from the head of your DS's school whether they would be prepared to write to your DD's head confirming the issues that you have outlined. I wouldn't be pushing the boat, but seeing if DD's head might be willing to at least discuss what might be done.

Gobbolinothewitchscat Thu 05-Sep-13 10:13:06

I think you would need to discuss with the Head a likely number of days that you would wish to take

This is a difficult one as you obviously want to do something that would benefit your DS and DD but that must be balanced with any detriment to DD in missing days if school

Further, I think it would be sensible to agree with the HT that you will keep the practice under review vis a vis DD's progress at school.

I would also go in prepared to discuss alternatives such as maybe your DH or you taking DD to museums etc during the weekends or holidays. Yes - it's not ideal and yes - it would be lovely if you could all go together but this is a discretionary power that the HT has. There is no absolute right for permission to be granted. I think it's much more likely that she will be accommodating if it looks like you have considered all the options

Elibean Thu 05-Sep-13 10:13:18

This is a tricky one, I'm afraid. These days, Heads are under a lot of pressure not to I suspect it will be unlikely.

If it were me, I think I would wait a few weeks (let everyone settle in/down), then ask to have a chat with the Head and just talk the problem through. If you go in with an open mind (hard, I know, when something matters so much) she is less likely to react and get defensive/slam the boundaries down.

If no solution pops up, I would then privately plan to do very occasional family treats together and have one-off unauthorised absences. Not entire holidays maybe, but a long weekend or two. Especially in Foundation and KS1 - it gets more disruptive later.

It sounds upsetting, I'm sure I would find it stressful too. And inevitable, I suppose, that dd's needs will impact on other family members just as ds's needs have - to some extent, I find that with two kids in mainstream too!

Good luck with it all smile

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 05-Sep-13 10:14:10

I could supply dd's school with a whole file on ds' sensory difficulties if she needed evidence.

I suppose I just need to stop worrying about things and tackle it head on with the new HT.

I know it won't be an issue at least this term because dd isn't officially school age, and in any case I know that dh's work will be difficult to take time off from this term, so it will just be an odd day, which should be fine.

Perhaps I just need to go holiday by holiday/day off by day off and see where it gets us. I don't 'think' they fine atm. I hope not because we really would not be able to afford the fine.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 05-Sep-13 10:19:36

Thanks for the replies (cross posted). Some really sensible advice.

Good idea to wait a bit until all is settled. Perhaps I'll make an appointment with the HT when the need actually arises.

DD had an 86% attendance at nursery (actually I think it was higher but the rates were published a few weeks before the end of term) and was average or above average in all areas.

Her non-attendance was almost entirely family days/holidays and not sickness (just one hospital operation but she was at nursery the following day).

ShowOfHands Thu 05-Sep-13 10:23:31

I'm watching this with interest. Our situation is totally different. DH isn't allowed time off in school holidays because of the nature of his job but we don't plan on taking holidays anyway because of this. The fines for unauthorised absence prohibit us even trying. We have just received an invitation to a family wedding though (close family and people are travelling thousands of miles to attend). It's on a flipping Friday. I have no idea if there's any way we're allowed to take dd out of school for the day for it. No way we can afford the fine and I'm not sure whether to even ask. The school website says on it that the HT can no longer authorise absences. Sounds pretty absolute to me.

AliceinSlumberland Thu 05-Sep-13 10:26:20

ShowofHands in that case I suggest she comes down with a sudden tummy bug.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 05-Sep-13 10:31:36

Yes DH's restricted holidays are another issue complicating things here.

The HT states that we have 13 weeks holiday to do holidays. Ideally, i'd like that to mean that we are entitled to have 13 weeks of holiday grin.

In reality it means that if we are lucky we'll get one or two weeks where their holiday crosses with DH and never at a time when it is easy to take DS.

I know lots of people might think that holidays are a luxury, but to us they are absolutely essential and have been the making of ds, who has achieved beyond our expectations from having all the high adult ratio attention, and by default dd has hugely benefitted too.

Our holidays/days out are usually extremely cheap, and we self-cater and do free things mostly.

titchy Thu 05-Sep-13 10:36:22

Your dd will have 6 INSET days a year dont' forget, so you could arrange to do things then as they won't be the same as other schools' INSET days so days out will be quieter.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 05-Sep-13 10:37:58

If we stay local, all the schools have inset days on the same day, though I take your point if we were to go further afield though (although aren't they almost always attached to school holidays and likely to co-inside with many others if not all?)

ShowOfHands Thu 05-Sep-13 10:39:12

I don't think I can encourage dd to lie or lie myself sadly.

Starlight, you know what, I know holidays are considered a 'luxury' by some but actually I think they're fairly important. A holiday to us is the same as a holiday to you I suspect. It's nothing expensive, usually a campsite but they are happy, carefree, brilliant family time when we can be together for more than a few snatched, stressed hours here and there. They're endlessly valuable. And I am absolutely not in agreement with the legal stance on the issue. We always went on holiday in term time as children and some of my happiest, most enduring and lovely memories are from those times. At the same time, I can't bring myself to ignore the rules because I'm a pathetic sheep.

MadeOfStarDust Thu 05-Sep-13 10:46:56

I think that you have to make your case and be aware that the head may well refuse - it does seem more and more that everyone can make a special case for some reason or another and the heads are becoming more aware that they would be measuring one person's "specialness" against another so just refuse them all, with the excuse that the LA are guiding them to do this.......

pooka Thu 05-Sep-13 10:56:02

Unfortunately I think it is unlikely that the head will authorise holiday in term time. Our head has pretty much been told not to, and that exceptional circs cover funeral/parent wedding.

As an example - friend at another school wanted to take her dcs to family holiday (I.e. family event abroad) in June. She handed in her request in may. The week before her dd had been unwell for 3 days, and similar a few weeks before that. The school calculated her attendance then, and what it would be post holiday. Came to 91% post holiday. So leave was not authorised - at our school they want about 98-% attendance because ofsted breathing down necks. Obviously you can't plan for illness and the way schools deal with this is by sweating the stuff they can influence which is not allowing holidays in term time.

pooka Thu 05-Sep-13 10:57:47

Ironically if she had handed in her request a month earlier, it would have been authorised on the basis of good attendance to that point.

But since then, at End of term, all heads round here have written to parents explaining that no term time absences in future.

Tiredemma Thu 05-Sep-13 11:03:59

whats the consequence of taking your child out anyway? Its an unauthorised absence for the school but does this negatively impact upon you?

I have always taken my children out during term time and will continue to do so- I just make sure it doesn't clash with significant dates i.e. - SATS etc

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 05-Sep-13 11:06:38

It's worth asking as your circumstances are exceptional in my opinion but the head may well take a tough stance. It is entirely at the head's discretion what exceptional means.

Toomuch2young Thu 05-Sep-13 11:15:23

In your situation I'd take DD out to school on some days so you could have the holiday experience. Is more to life and learning than school, and having a DS with ASD obviously brings other challenges. I think it would be more beneficial to a 6/7/8 year old to have enjoyable time with family.
If head won't grant it, it will be unauthorised absence. I do know a mum that was fined for taking a DC out of school for a week, but the fine was only small - google tells me £60 - so still cheaper than holiday prices. Your reasons are very valid, hopefully head will be reasonable.

cakesaregood Thu 05-Sep-13 11:27:14

This was our topic of conversation at the school gate this morning! It seems a very blunt tool.

Obviously people's circumstances are different but it is possible that your DD could qualify as a young carer. And you as a carer for that matter. As such there may be respite opportunities available which may help you balance family life a little. I would guess your GP or maybe family liaison officer might be able help?

exexpat Thu 05-Sep-13 11:29:46

You may just have to factor possible fines into the cost of your holidays. If something was important to me and my family, I wouldn't let a headteacher under pressure from Ofsted stop me doing it.

And obviously you have to be aware of the possible educational impact of missing school, but you sound very conscientious anyway, and if your DD is doing well and is in the early years of primary, it's unlikely to be an issue.

PastSellByDate Thu 05-Sep-13 11:32:08

Hi Starlight:

I am not the HT's favourite by any means but she absolutely understood when I approached her about needing to take the girls out of school this autumn to visit their grandfather who was too ill for visitors this past summer. We did supply all the medical notes (two surgeries and strict instructions for quiet and low blood pressure whilst recovering) to shore up our request for some days off this term.

I think if you're absolutely straight and negotiate the timing with the teacher you can come to a happy compromise.

ISSUE 1: brother is in special needs school with different holidays to sister.

First you need to consider why he can't miss the school days and holidays now reflect your DDs' schedule - and maybe go for less well known camp sites (saw several nearly empty sites in Wales in August for example).

But let's say that it is impossible to go somewhere quiet during standard term-time holidays - you need to present the medical evidence for this to the school so that they can understand that your family is having to work around this special need for your DD's sibling.

ISSUE 2: How many days and when to go away
Raise this with the school and ask how many days are appropriate & if there are good windows to be away.

For example: Our school tends to get very relaxed and have parties, films, special events at the end of each half-term. Absences in this period cause the least loss of learning. Certainly the last week of school and the last week before Christmas are total write-offs - it's all parties, games, films, 'golden time' etc... So there are definitely good windows for getting away which the school should recognise.

If your DDs' school closes for voting on a Thursday but has school as normal the following Friday - you probably could ask for a Friday off. This would give you a long weekend away (Weds p.m. to Sunday p.m.) at the least.


DeWe Thu 05-Sep-13 12:17:52

I would get to half term, show that she will be a good attender.
Then ask for an appointment to discuss it with the head.
Go in with a can you help me attitude, rather than a I am going to do this whatever you say.
Do not book the holiday first.

Discuss it, see what his attitude is.

I asked last year if dd2 (physical sn) could have a day of for an event that was basically going to be fun. I didn't expect to get it authorised, but was pleasantly surprised when his response was along the lines of definitely, great thing to go on, do ask again.

PassTheTwiglets Thu 05-Sep-13 12:24:53

This won't help you with holidays but you could look into flexi-schooling to visit museums etc. You may know about it anyway but this is where your child attends school at certain times and is educated at home at other times. So you could, in theory, have one day off a week to visit museums etc.

ivykaty44 Thu 05-Sep-13 12:25:52

Op how old is your dd? If she is starting primary school is she 4 years old or 5 years old?

Lethologica Thu 05-Sep-13 12:33:28

I think the argument that you need to go when places are quiet is not going to be strong enough. Museums can be very crowded with schools parties and tourist and theme park type places are either open and busy or they are closed (IYSWIM grin ).

We hate crowds and avoid touristy places like the plague. We had a great holiday in Nourthumberland in the middle of the summer. We avoided the famous popular castles but still found plenty to do. Our cottage was really remote and beautiful.

I bet there are lots of other quiet corners of the UK.

Personally, I could never lie and say my kid was sick when they weren't. I know other people don't mind but I wouldn't do it.

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