The Essential Facts: Taking Your Kids Out Of School For A Term Time Holiday

A new investigation has found that councils in England are changing their policies on fining parents who choose to take their kids out of school for a term-time break. Here’s what you need to know…

Children on holiday term time taking out of school

It’s official! Councils in England are reviewing the rules surrounding taking children out of school for a term-time holiday.

According to a new investigation, 35 councils in England have gone back to the drawing board and are reconsidering imposing fines on parents. 

So, why are they talking about this now? We all know that it’s important for our kids to get a quality education, but with the massive hike in costs during school holidays, parents often have little choice but to go in term-time when it’s much cheaper.

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This was the dilemma that one father found himself in last year. Jon Platt refused to pay a £120 fine levied by the Isle of Wight and took his fight all the way to the high court… and WON! The case is going to the Supreme Court this week, where judges will consider what it means to for kids to have ‘regular attendance’.

Mr Platt argues that it should be his decision to take his child out of school, whereas ministers argue this will disrupt his daughter’s education and affect her exam results. 

What are the laws surrounding term-time holidays?

In September 2013, strict rules on unauthorized term-time holidays were introduced in England; meaning parents could face a hefty fine for going on a sunshine break. Technically, head teachers in England can give permission but only for ‘exceptional circumstances’. This led councils to draw up policies on what they consider ‘exceptional’ – resulting in subtle differences in approaches across the country. 

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But since Mr Platt’s success in the high court, councils are having a rethink and the number of parents taking their kids out of school has increased.

So, can I take my children on holiday in term-time or not?

If your children are aged 5-16 and in an English state school (private schools are exempt), you’re unlikely to get permission to take your children out of school in term time. If you do, you are likely to receive a minimum of a £60 fine.

In Wales, head teachers can authorize 10 days holiday in certain circumstances, but any absences that aren’t ‘booked’ through official channels can result in a fine. 

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In Scotland there’s no £60 fine. Instead, local education authorities can issue ‘attendance orders’ to make a parent explain why their child wasn’t in school. If you don’t comply you could be taken to court and face up to one month in jail or a £1,000 fine!

In Northern Ireland, parents can’t be fined for unauthorized absences. But, if a child’s attendance drops below 85% they could be referred to the Education Welfare Service.

Are there any ways around the term time holiday ban?

There’s still this mystery ‘exceptional circumstances’ discretion that can be used by head teachers. This can include things like visiting seriously ill family members, attending a funeral or if a family member is in the Armed Forced and is returning from duty for a short time.              

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Can I just ignore the rules and take my children on holiday in term time?

Head teachers are duty bound to report that your child was out of school to the Local Education Authority (LEA). The LEA will then issue a fine of £60 per child, per absence. Technically, both parents can be fined too. The fine is an alternative to going to court, so if you refuse to pay you will need to go before a magistrate.

Okay, so can I just refuse to pay on principle and suffer the consequences?

Your £60 automatic fine will jump to £120 if you fail to pay within 21 days. By 28 days you will be called before a court under the Education Act of 1996. If found guilty, you could be slapped with a criminal record and face a fine of £2,500, court costs and even a jail sentence of up to three months. YIKES!

Holiday prices jump by hundreds of pounds in school holidays… I’d rather take the £60 hit!

That’s totally up to you, but remember this is the law of the land. Not just a little rule to be skipped around. Technically, if the LEA wanted to, it could take you straight to court and skip the fine.

What does the law ACTUALLY say?

In England, Section 444 of the Education Act says it is an offence if you fail to ensure your child attends school “regularly”. However, nothing clarifies the use of the word ‘regularly’, so technically it is open for interpretation. Ministers say ‘regularly’ is all the time except for illness and the odd family emergency. However, Jon Platt, who won his battle in the high court, said he had no case to answer because his child had a 95% attendance record prior to the holiday, and a 90% attendance record after it.  

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Be warned…

So, you’re considering taking Mr Platt’s lead? If your child has an excellent attendance rate you could use his high court win to add weight to your case. BUT if your child doesn’t have stellar attendance it’s a HUGE risk.

Don’t take our word for it. Whatever you decide speak to a trained professional, your local education authority or a lawyer! 

What are your experiences of term time holidays? Let us know below...

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