July and August sees the arrival of the school summer holidays but with the unpredictability of the great British weather, many parents look to take their families abroad.
Come mid-July holiday prices begin to soar and this tends to last until early September. The average price rise is approximately 60% but in some cases prices can increase by over 98%!
This price rise has encouraged many parents to look to take their families away during term time when prices are significantly less.
The legal position
Under current legislation, if your child is in an English state school aged 5-16 and they have an unauthorised absence from school during term time you may be fined £60 per child per parent, rising to £120 per child per parent if the fine is not paid within 21 days. If the fine is unpaid for 28 days Court proceedings can be issued and you could face a fine for up to £2,500 or imprisonment of up to 3 months.
An unauthorised absence is an absence not approved by the school. This will be where no reason is given for the absence or an unacceptable reason is given. Following a change in the law from September 2013 schools can only approve absences in "exceptional circumstances". Therefore family holidays taken in term-time will be an unauthorised absence.
The decision whether to issue a fine rests with the head teacher; however some Local Authorities will issue a fine automatically. In 2014/15 Local Authorities issued 50,414 fines (equating to approximately £3 million) relating to term-time holidays.
Can separated parents both receive a fine?
Yes - a penalty will be issued to each parent liable for the attendance offence.
Is the legislation discriminatory to low income families?
Penalties can be issued regardless of social/economic background. Whilst the Local Authority should not target a particular group of parents, all parents are under a duty to ensure their children attend school on a regular basis.
Do the rules apply to private schools?
No private schools are able to set their own rules regarding attendance and absences.
Can I appeal the fine?
There is no right of appeal against the penalty notice (the fine). The penalty notice can be withdrawn if it emerges that the notice was materially incorrect. Note this is not an appeal and withdrawal circumstances are very limited.
Are there any other consequences?
Taking a child out of school without authorisation is an offence and should be taken very seriously. Aside from the statutory penalties the Department for Education have published research which demonstrates that even short gaps of attendance can be detrimental to a child's education.