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COVID-19 and the law: Can I take my child on holiday during term-time?

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COVID-19 and the law: Can I take my child on holiday during term-time?

It has been a long and difficult year for most of us, with many considering finally taking a family holiday. With children having returned to school and travel plans frequently changing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, taking children on holiday during term-time may be a consideration for many parents.

The rules concerning term-time holidays changed in 2013, and headteachers may no longer grant holidays of up to 10 days in ‘special circumstances’. Headteachers may now only grant permission for term-time absence in exceptional circumstances. But surely, we are living in exceptional circumstances? Perhaps not. In this article, we look at the rules surrounding children, term-time holidays and the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the current rules around school absence?

From the beginning of the Autumn term 2020, pupil attendance at school will be compulsory, and the usual rules concerning attendance will apply. This means that parents have a legal obligation to ensure their child attends school regularly. The school has a responsibility to record the attendance of pupils and follow up on any absence, and sanctions such as fines may be issued if parents fail their obligations. However, pupils will not be counted as absent where they cannot attend school for reasons related to coronavirus.

Can I take my child out of school during term-time for a holiday?

You may not take your child out of school during term time unless:

You get permission from the school in advance

There are exceptional circumstances that require you to take this holiday—for example, the funeral of a family member, or illness.

Requesting a leave of absence

If you need to request permission for absence, you must do so by making a formal Request for Leave of Absence, a form which will be available from your child’s school. You must also submit evidence that supports the reasons for the absence no later than 21 days before you plan for your child to be absent from school. It will be for the headteacher to determine how long the child may be away from school.

What happens if my Request for Leave of Absence is denied?

If your request is denied, you may not take your child out of school. If you choose to do so, your child’s absence from school will be marked as ‘not authorised’. Where you continue to take your child out of school, or where your child is absent from school for more than the permitted number of days, the headteacher may make a request for you to be issued by a Fixed Penalty Notice by the local authority. The Fixed Penalty Notice is £60 per parent, per pupil. If you fail to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice within 21 days, this will increase to £120. Where you do not pay within 28 days, you will receive a summons to attend the Magistrates Court.

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