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Unauthorised absence and removal of child from school roll

(109 Posts)
wickedfairy Sat 12-Oct-13 16:34:33

We have a family event (Wedding) on the other side of the world and have been refused authorisation to remove the children from school. We have asked for 16 days, which I know is a lot but we have to fly our family so far away, that we cannot make it a short trip. Basically, the children would be off school for one month, with half term in the middle (hence the 16 days).

It costs so much to go there, that we thought it could be a trip of a lifetime and we would be making sure the children would benefit from the trip – experiencing local culture and visiting historical places during the trip. I have proposed that the record the trip and what they do in a diary to share once back at school and also that we would happily take schoolwork away so that the children would not fall behind. One child is in Yr2, the other is younger – wedding is near the beginning of the year, not SATS time.

The standard letter we were sent says that we will most likely be fined, which we would accept. The very worrying thing is that it also says that the children could have their names removed from the school roll and lose their places. They both have excellent attendance (96%). Can they really do this? I am so worried and the flights are already booked….. I will request a meeting with the head teacher, but I am not sure she will accept/it will make no difference.

Any advice please? I am totally stressing that we will get back and the children will have lost their school places. They have never missed school before....

FiveExclamations Sat 12-Oct-13 20:08:06

There must be some level of discretion, we asked our HT about a day off for a family occasion saying that we understood he might have to say no and he approved it without a murmur.

I have since been told that others have had time off approved as well.

Maybe our HT is a rebel?

FiveExclamations Sat 12-Oct-13 20:09:22

Sorry, should add none of these approved absences have been anything like as long as 16 days far as I know, so no idea about rules for long absences.

shebird Sat 12-Oct-13 21:03:11

Fiveexclamations I think your HT has just used common sense and I wish our HT would do the same. Our HT has refused my request for 2 days to attend a family event abroad. I am so angry as this is a religious ceremony and it is a faith school so it makes a complete joke of the whole notion that the school supports the faith of its pupils. Requests to attend funerals of close family members have also been declined.

Saracen Sat 12-Oct-13 21:10:30

Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of it, and the question of whether the absence should have been authorised, it is illegal for the children to lose their school place over this. It would be wise to inform the school in writing of your exact plans before you go.

admission, I don't agree with your interpretation of the law.

Looking at the Education Act here

the only section which is remotely relevant is that a child's name can be removed from the roll on the grounds

"(h)that he has been continuously absent from the school for a period of not less than twenty school days and —
(i)at no time was his absence during that period authorised by the proprietor in accordance with regulation 6(2);
(ii)the proprietor does not have reasonable grounds to believe that the pupil is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause; and
(iii)both the proprietor of the school and the local education authority have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to ascertain where the pupil is;"

But the OP's children will only be missing 16 school days, not twenty. What's more, if the school has been informed by the parents that the children are going abroad for a holiday, exactly where they will be going and when they will be returning, then it cannot be the case that the school and LEA have "failed to ascertain" where the children are. For good measure, you could supply them with a contact telephone number or email address where they can reach you while you are away, and a copy of your return tickets. Then it would be absolutely clear that the school and LEA cannot possibly believe the children have moved away.

Fairenuff Sat 12-Oct-13 23:14:32

I always wonder what parents mean when they say 'take work with them' for KS1 children?

We don't use worksheets in KS1 and haven't for a long time.

During lessons the teacher teaches by explaining, demonstrating, questioning, etc. How can you pack that into a suitcase and take it with you?

prh47bridge Sat 12-Oct-13 23:48:06

Saracen - You don't seem to be disagreeing with Admission's interpretation of the law at all. She said that a place can be removed if the pupil is granted leave of absence and fails to return within 10 days of the expiry of that leave (which is paragraph 8(f)) or if they are absent for more than 20 days (paragraph 8(h) which you have reproduced). She then goes on to say, quite reasonably, that the OP needs clarity from the school. The fact that the school should not remove the OP's child from the roll for an absence of 16 days does not mean they won't so it is better to sort that out now rather than wait until the school has got it wrong.

wickedfairy Sun 13-Oct-13 07:41:30

Thank you all for your advice, experience and thoughts - it is much appreciated! We will request a meeting with the HT. I am prepared to reduce the length of time but I doubt she will accept that. We would have to pay to change our flights, but if needs must...

Re taking schoolwork, I had not appreciated that this would be extra work for the teacher. I had assumed there would be some work books I could buy that we could use, so I feel very foolish for not realising.

The school is a very good one and is oversubscribed, so I am very worried about the threat of removal. I have read the regs and although it appears we would be safe bring under 20days, we can't take the risk that the places will be given to someone else. I am also mad at myself that I didn't read the regs before booking the flights, which were booked during the summer hols, so before the recent changes. Although, since things have changed, maybe it would have made no difference anyway...

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sun 13-Oct-13 08:24:19

WickedFairy, don't beat yourself up for not anticipating these problems. None of us has a crystal ball.

NynaevesSister Sun 13-Oct-13 08:24:50

Am astounded at the lack of understanding that some people are showing here. As someone who also comes from the other side of the world I would do what OP is doing.

The educational benefits and also the sense of belonging that comes from such travel and being with your family and culture is hugely important. Your children will do better long term if they do go. It is a family wedding! A chance for them to meet so much of their family in one go.

It isn't that easy to get flights that fit neatly into that ten day window either.

Personally, I would arrange a meeting with HT. explain you accept you will be taking unauthorised absence and outline the benefits to the children of this trip. Also take a letter with you outlining how you have thought about the pros and cons, clearly pointing to para 8h (quote in full) and say you will ensure your children are back before that 20 day limit.

Then go.

With the fine, check how your LA does it. Ours is per absence (so same for a week as for a day), per child, and per parent. So for two children would be £240.

meditrina Sun 13-Oct-13 08:27:53

If you first booked under the 'old' rules, then I suggest you change back to that booking (max 10 days off). That puts you so well under the removal of place threshold that you'll be able to relax.

Saracen Sun 13-Oct-13 09:15:01

"Saracen - You don't seem to be disagreeing with Admission's interpretation of the law at all."

Oops, sorry, you are completely right!

Saracen Sun 13-Oct-13 09:21:08

I still don't see that the OP needs to change her plans out of fear of losing the school places if she is convinced that this holiday is right for the children educationally.

The law is the law. The school places cannot be removed under the circumstances. Even an unforeseen delay to the family's return, taking them over the 20-day threshhold, would not trigger the loss of the school places if the LA and school know where the children are and that they plan to return.

If the school did unlawfully delete the children's names from the register, I'd immediately ask for places for them at the school. If the places have been subsequently filled by other children, surely the OP's children will have to be readmitted anyway (even if it takes the school over its numbers), on the grounds that they were illegally deregistered.

SavoyCabbage Sun 13-Oct-13 09:22:50

I'm doing this the other way. From the opposite direction i mean. My school has said how wonderful it will be for the children, seeing their family and having new experiences.

PenelopePitstops Sun 13-Oct-13 09:28:14

Take them and have a great time. I say this as a teacher that hates the new rules.

nennypops Sun 13-Oct-13 09:36:22

orh47 - The difference between Saracen's and Admission's interpretation of the law is that Saracen rightly points out the section where it says that the child can only be removed from the roll if the school and local authority can't ascertain where she is. Therefore if OP makes sure that the school knows precisely where the dc are going and when they will be back, they can't be removed from the roll. I would suggest that that be spelt out, very politely, to the head. If the head suggests she'll take them off the roll anyway you could point out that it would be open to you to take legal action in the children's names to have the places restored. They'd presumably qualify for legal aid for that purpose.

500internalerror Sun 13-Oct-13 09:51:12

Sadly, all these fines etc have come about because of society's change in attitude - which spoils it for the genuine instances of time off school being needed. When Parents take term time hols because they're cheaper, that doesn't make it right - in the 'old days' you took a holiday within your means. This often meant a weekend by the sea, or at an aunties house. People now think that a holiday abroad is the norm & expect it.

This is why, when things like a day off for a funeral come up, it's now harder to get a reasonable support from the school.

It's the same as parents increasingly slapdash attitude towards timekeeping and homework.

Sorry for the massive generalisations here, & I do realise this doesn't solve the ops problem! But society is changing, & instead of trying to instil good values back into people, they are just fined confused

ChinaCupsandSaucers Sun 13-Oct-13 09:53:22

With the fine, check how your LA does it. Ours is per absence (so same for a week as for a day), per child, and per parent. So for two children would be £240.

And other LA's are interpreting it as £60 per parent, per child, per session of which there are two every day - so the OP and her DP could face a fine of £3840 per child.

RaisinBoys Sun 13-Oct-13 10:08:03

16 days is too long. No one "needs" 16 days to attend a wedding, no matter where in the world it is.

If you were more reasonable in your request then your school might also be, and why you would book flights without having this sewn up first...

Re. worksheets - any teacher that could provide a months worth of worksheets for my y2 that adequately reflects the lessons being missed is not a teacher I would want.

clam Sun 13-Oct-13 10:09:09

Technically, the rules haven't "changed." Why does everyone believe that they used to be entitled to 2 weeks off during term time every year? That was never the case. The HT could, in exceptional circumstances, (meaning, as now, for a funeral or similar) allow UP TO ten days. Some Heads were a little more liberal in interpretation of what 'exceptional' meant previously. Now they can't be.

lborolass Sun 13-Oct-13 10:18:27

Re the post about missing a funeral - I wonder is there is a misunderstanding amongst some parents. Afaik the HT can't authorise the absence but they can't stop you going.

I would think that most parents would run the risk albeit small of a fine in the circumstances of a close family funeral.

In such a case how would the LA get to know that the child had been absent? Do the new rules include extra absence reporting?

CaptainSweatPants Sun 13-Oct-13 10:18:30

I think it's very different for a wedding than a funeral
I wouldn't take my kids out of school for 3 weeks for a wedding

coldwinter Sun 13-Oct-13 10:22:01

Three weeks is a long time out of school. And like others, I have flown very long haul flights for 2 weeks holidays, and in 1 case 8 days. Not ideal, but I wouldn't be able to get a month of work anyway.

Change your flights so you are away for 16 days. I know it will cost you more money, but it is not worth risking their school places.

lljkk Sun 13-Oct-13 10:37:14

I can't count the number of family weddings we've missed over the yrs. I can't face (or afford) spending all that money & enduring so much exhaustion & hassle for very brief visits. And weirdly enough, the relatives don't know anything about intransigent English state school expectations so don't schedule accordingly. It would be nice to go to a family event just a few times every decade.

Sirzy Sun 13-Oct-13 10:47:28

16 days of school is a lot to miss. Even without fines and possible (but unlikely) problems with school places for children so early in their education that could be whole topics of work they miss which could be very difficult to catch up on.

I think sometimes when you have family overseas you just either have to travel for very short periods of time or miss events you wouldn't normally. We couldn't go to a cousins wedding because it wasn't possible without us missing too long from school.

I have 3 DDs who are in secondary, primary and preschool. They attended their DDad (oldest DDs DSDad) on Friday and it didn't even occur to me to ask permission for them to have the day off. I told the schools that they wouldn't be in and they were fine with it.

The older 2 DDs haven't had any other days off yet but DD1 has had a few hospital and CAMHS appointments already this term.

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