The Law

If a registered pupil of compulsory school age fails to attend school regularly, the parent could be guilty of an offence under section 444 Education Act 1996. In April 2017, the Supreme Court held that attending school “regularly” means attendance in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school and not “sufficiently frequent attendance“. This means that a child must attend school every day that the school requires him or her to do so and failure to do this may lead to the commission of an offence.

Headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Headteachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if the leave is granted. An application for leave of absence should be made to the Headteacher, by a parent with whom the pupil normally resides, giving at least one month’s notice. The Request for Leave of Absence in Term Time form is available from each school office or is downloadable from the school website.

A Penalty Notice can be issued by the Local Authority where leave of absence is not granted but taken. A Penalty Notice is a fine of £60 payable within 21 days if unpaid increasing to £120 payable within 28 days. A separate Penalty Notice will be issued to each parent for each child who has not been granted a leave of absence.

A parent is defined under section 576 of the Education Act 1996 as:

  • all-natural parents, whether they are married or not
  • any person, although not a natural parent, has parental responsibility for a child or young person
  • any person, who although not a natural parent, has care of a child or young person (having care of a child or young person means that a person with whom the child lives and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child, is considered to be a parent in education law).

Is saving money more important than your child’s education?

As few as 19 missed days over the school year reduces your child’s chances of success. Their SAT or GCSE results could drop by one grade across all subjects.

Taking leave of absence at critical times such as during exams or at the start of a new school year seriously interrupts your child’s education.

This is how your child’s progress in their learning is rated when correlated to their school attendance:

  • 100%-99%       OUTSTANDING
  • 98%-97%         GOOD
  • 96%-95%         REQUIRES IMPROVEMENT
  • 94%-91%         INADEQUATE
  • 90%-86%         CAUSE FOR CONCERN
  • 85% & below    SERIOUS CONCERN

The Trust expects every child to have at least 97% attendance at any one time throughout the school year. This equates to a minimum of 5 days’ absence in a school year.

The Process

When considering an application, the Headteacher will have regard to exceptional circumstances which will focus on:

  • a recent serious illness/bereavement of an immediate family member
  • a member of the Armed Forces whereby they need to undertake a tour of duty which conflicts with school holidays
  • restrictions on police leave, where a police officer has specific duties in relation to a national event that conflicts with school holidays.

Evidence of exceptional circumstances will be requested.

The Headteacher’s decision is final.

Each parent will be notified in writing of the Headteacher’s decision. When the decision is made not to grant leave of absence in term time and the leave is taken without prior approval, or without application, the Trust will refer the matter to the Local Authority to consider the issue of a Penalty Notice.

In making its recommendation, the Trust will have regard to the Penalty Notice Code of Conduct drawn up by the Local Authority which sets out measures to ensure consistency in the issuing of penalty notices.

Where leave of absence is taken without application, this will be investigated in accordance with the Trust safeguarding and child missing from education procedures and may involve referral to the Local Authority Children’s Services and the police. Fines may be issued.