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Parents who take their children out of court during term time will be fined following a conclusive ruling by the Supreme Court.
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.
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 Supreme Court and he lost as the judges said he had shown a “blatant disregard of school rules” and that his approach had been a “slap in the face” to “obedient” parents who abide by the law.
Mr Platt argued 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.
Their ruling means that parents who take their children out of school on holiday - even if their child has regular attendance - can be prosecuted if they don't attain permission from the head teacher.
In September 2013, strict rules on unauthorised 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.
According to guidelines, you can only allow your child to miss school if they are ill, or if you have received advanced permission from the school.
Getting permission from the school requires making an application to the head teacher in advance, who will decide if your request will be granted.
Where, previously, head teachers could grant 10 days of authorised absence, now they are unable to grant any, except in exceptional circumstances.
If you take your child out of school without permission, you risk receiving a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if paid after 21 days.
If you don’t pay the fine after 28 days you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school, and could be fined up to £2,500 or receive a jail sentence of three months.
So, Is there any way can I take my children out of school 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.