Holidays during term time: cheaper, but is it really worth it?

As we all struggle with the January blues, it’s no surprise this is prime holiday booking season.

Regardless of your views on whether it’s appropriate to take children out of school during term time, most of us are a bit vague on what we can and can’t get away with…..

When are absences allowed?

As a starting point, under English law any parent who fails to ensure their child goes to school ‘regularly’ is guilty of a criminal offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

The basic position is that you can only allow your child to miss school if:

  • They’re too ill to go in, or
  • You have advance permission from the school.

Advance permission

Previously, under the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 schools had the discretion to grant up to 10 days term time holidays each year for ‘special circumstances’. But, since The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 came into force head teachers can now only give permission in ‘exceptional circumstances’ (e.g. visiting seriously ill family, attending a close relative’s  funeral or if immediate family in the Armed Forces is returning from operations).

Basically, even with the most persuasive request you’re unlikely to get permission for a term-time holiday.

What happens if I take them away anyway?

You are breaking the law.

Head teachers have to report all absences to the council responsible for education in their area (LEA). Therefore, if an absence is unauthorised (i.e. advance permission was refused) you could face a £60 fine (per child per absence) or worse.

What if I don’t pay the fine?

If you don’t pay within 21 days the fine increases to £120 and if you don’t pay the fine after 28 days you can be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school under the Education Act 1996.

If found guilty you could end up with a criminal record and face a fine of up to £2,500, court costs or even a jail sentence of up to three months.

Repeat offenders may wish to note that the LEA are technically under no obligation to issue a fine (penalty notice) first and could take you straight to the Magistrate’s Courts.

A cautionary tale: Platt v Isle of Wight LEAJudgement

The Isle of Wight dad was prosecuted by the Council after he took his daughter to Florida for 7 days during term time without permission resulting in a fine which he refused to pay.

At first instance the Magistrates Court found there was no case to answer and two High Court Judges upheld that decision due to the child’s otherwise high attendance (95% prior to the holiday).  In April 2017 the Council successfully appealed to the Supreme Court who unanimously found that Mr Platt must face prosecution as “regularly” in the Act meant “in accordance with the attendance rules” and that a child’s prior record of attendance was irrelevant. The matter was sent back to the Isle of Wight where the Magistrate handed Mr Platt a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered him to pay £2,000 in costs.

This decision is binding on Courts and local authorities meaning anybody appealing a fine is now unlikely to be successful.

For further information and advice, please contact Laura Campbell at our office.

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