Gone are the days in which we could pop our children out of school in order to take them away on a lovely holiday, or even for a midweek day trip somewhere so that we could miss the lines. Now, taking your child out of school is a very serious thing to do, and you are highly likely to be in trouble if you do it.
That being said, there are several reasons you can take your child out of school, and these will be registered as ‘authorised absences’ by the institution your child attends.
The school registers
When your child starts school, they’ll be added to admissions register, which all schools are required to have by law. All schools except boarding schools are also required to have an attendance register, and your child’s absence will be marked against this register if they fail to show up at school.
If your child does not show up for school and you do not call to explain why, the school will likely call your home to make sure everything is OK.
Unauthorised absences will be marked against your child’s name, and action can be taken against you. If you are taking your child out of school, you must make sure you are legally allowed to do it, or you’ll likely be held responsible.
In 2017, a father who took his daughter out of school to go on holiday lost a battle against the education system. The education system can and will take you to court if they think you have taken your child out of school for a reason that was not valid. So, what are the valid reasons for taking your child out of school during term time?
Valid reasons to take your child out of school during term
We’re sorry to tell you that holidays are not one of them. You are highly unlikely to be given permission to take your child out of school during term time. If you take them out of school anyway, you are likely to receive a £60 fine or worse. The fine increases to £120 if you don’t pay it within 21 days, and if you wait more than 28 days you risk being take to magistrates court under the Education Act 1996. If you’re found guilty, you could end up with a criminal record and a fine of £2,500. In the very worst case scenario, you could be sent to prison.
But you can take your child out of school for any of the following reasons, so long as you have permission from the Headteacher:
- visting very ill family members,
- we’re not talking about visiting Aunty Florence who has a cold here, we’re talking about close family members who are potentially terminally ill.
- attending a close family member’s funeral,
- again, this should be the funeral of a very close family member, not a distance cousin or other obscure relative.
- armed forces family member returning from operations,
- special allowances are often given to the children or close family members of members of the armed forces returning from duty.
- your child has permission to be absent if they are ill.
- religious observance
- If you observe a specific religion and a religious observance or celebration falls during term time, it is highly likely you will be given permission to take your child out of class.
- specific travel complications
- if your child has no fixed address or does not live within walking distance of the school (two miles for under eights, three miles for over eights) and the local authority does not provide you with transport, somewhere to stay, or the option for them to attend a school closer to home.
As you can see, none of these reasons include ‘so that we can go on a cheaper holiday’.
But perhaps you are thinking of taking your child out of school anyway. Perhaps you reason that the £60 fine is still less than the amount holidays inflate by in the six-weeks holidays, and so you will swallow the fine and accept it.
What happens if I take my child out of school anyway?
Head teachers have to report absences to the LEA, and they are responsible for fining parents or guardians for taking their child out of school during term time for an unauthorised reason.
Be aware that this is the law we are talking about. Taking your child out of school for an unauthorised reason is illegal, and you should not take that decision lightly. The fine is an alternative to prosecution, but there is no reason why the LEA can’t skip the fine option and prosecute you instead, especially if you do this regularly.
Even if you don’t do it often, be aware that Jon Platt successfully argued to a Magistrate and then a High Court that his daughter, who we mentioned earlier, attended school ‘regularly’ and therefore he should not have to pay a fine for taking her to Disney World during term-time, but was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay a fine, which was later set again by Magistrates at £2,000. He was also given a 12 month conditional discharge.
So taking your child out of school during term-time could result in a very high fine and a criminal record, no matter how good their previous attendance record is.
Theoretically, the LEA can fine each parent individually, too, which could mean double trouble.
I’m confused, what should I do?
If you’re not sure if you are legally allowed to take your child out of school during term-time, JMR Solciitors can help you.
We can also help if you are currently fighting fines you believe are unfair and unjust for taking your children out of school for a variety of reasons.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0161 491 3933.