by Mrs S Hickey, Attendance Intervention Manager
Do we still get fined for taking our children on holiday in term time?
This is the question which keeps being asked when parents request leave of absence during term time for their child. So what’s the answer??? The answer is YES!
Parents and carers continue to be prosecuted, usually with a penalty notice, from the Local Authority, for unauthorised leave of absences. Staffordshire County Council have updated their Code of Conduct following the “Isle of Wight” ruling in May 2016, which still includes prosecuting parents / carers for taking their children out of school for unauthorised leave of absences during term time. Please note that the fixed penalty notice is per parent, per child. If there are two children in a family with two parents then a total of four penalty notices are issued. Each penalty notice is £60 if paid within 21 days (raising to £120 if paid between 21-28 days). In this given scenario, that would total £240 if paid within 21 days or £480 if paid between 21-28 days.
Further to the “Isle of Wight” ruling, the DfE continue to progress the case for a Local Authority to prosecute parents for unauthorised leave of absences. The specific case reported is now being taken before the Supreme Court (as it was previously held at the High Court).
There has been no change of guidance for Headteachers to authorise, or not, leave of absence in term time. Each request is considered individually as to whether it is exceptional (unable to happen at a different time, a one-off event etc) and only exceptional requests for leave, as agreed by the Headteacher, are recorded as authorised. Unauthorised leave of absences are all reported to the Local Authority who then take the decision whether their Code of Conduct has been met and whether they will be prosecuting parents / carers for this unauthorised absence.
At John Taylor, in the last academic year (2015-2016), 685 sessions were lost to pupils (Years 7-11) being absent for unauthorised leave. This equates to 343 schools days, or nearly two academic years. This is clearly a figure which we need to reduce as this is a significant time to be lost when learning could take place. We will always discourage you to take your child out of school during term time, but should you decide to please write to Mr Donoghue in reasonable time to request the absence. You will need to clearly state the reasons as to why you feel the leave is exceptional. We will then respond to all requests, via letter, to state whether or not the absence will be recorded as authorised or unauthorised. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you wish to discuss this procedure further.