Taking a Child out of School
  • 15th Jan 2020
  • Article written by Graham Jones
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Taking a Child out of School

Have you ever thought about taking your child out of school for term-time holidays or for exceptional circumstances, but you’re not aware of the rules and regulations? As a highly controversial and debated topic with a large divide in opinions, it’s difficult to know whether you’re doing the right thing.


Getting the balance between providing your children with fun experiences, dedicating time to family life around your working schedule and ensuring time-off school isn’t going to have impactful consequences can be a struggle to juggle.


In this article, we discuss the rules and regulations around term-time holidays and taking children out of school for exceptional circumstances.


In the UK, children must receive full-time education between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16, either by sending them to school or educating them yourself. Children are only allowed to miss school when:

  • They are too ill to go to school
  • You have permission in advance from the school

Term Time Holidays & Exceptional Circumstances

If you are thinking about taking your child out of school for a term-time holiday, you will need to get permission from the head teacher in advance.


Previously, schools, at their discretion, were allowed to offer up to 10 days term-time leave each year in the event of ‘exceptional circumstances’. For example, if a family member was seriously ill, to attend a wedding or you needed to attend a funeral. It would be highly unlikely you would be allowed time off school for a holiday.


However, these rules have tightened considerably; the 10-day threshold which was previously in place has been removed entirely, and head teachers are only allowed to grant authorised absence in exceptional circumstances. In some cases, schools and local authorities will ask for evidence of exceptional circumstances.


If parents do not get authorisation for their child’s absence, they could be at the receiving end of a fine or order.


School Fines for Unauthorised Absence

If you request to take your children out of school for a term-time holiday and it is declined but you still choose to take your child out of school, you may be issued a penalty of £60 per child per parent. This cost could rise to £120 per child per parent if it is not paid within 21 days. If after 28 days you still haven’t paid the penalty fee, you could be prosecuted for your child’s unauthorised absence.


Schools and local authorities also have the legal powers to issue a number of

orders against you for your child’s absence:

  • Parenting Order. If you receive a parenting order you will be required to attend parenting classes and follow court orders to improve your child’s attendance at school.
  • Education Supervision Order. If you’re not co-operating with the council to improve your child’s school attendance, they can apply to a court for an Education Supervision Order which means a supervisor will help you get your child into school.
  • School Attendance Order. In the event the local council thinks your child is not getting an education, they can send you a School Attendance Order which requires you to show evidence that you’ve registered your child with the school listed in the order or you’re providing them with the education yourself within 15 days.

Taking a Child Out of School - Under 5 or Reception

If you’re thinking about taking your reception child out of school for a holiday, you could still be subject to a penalty if you have not received authorisation from the school.


Although some parents are under the impression that since they are not legally obliged to ensure their child is receiving an education until after their 5th birthday, it would not count as an unauthorised absence if a child under the age of 5 were taken out of school for a holiday or any other unauthorised reason. However, this may not be the case as the child should be on the roll of a school.


Once a child is enrolled at school, it is the duty of the parents to ensure their child receives a full-time education suitable to their age, aptitude, ability and to any special educational needs they may have. It is therefore at the school’s discretion whether or not to allow authorised absences or not, and whether parents should incur any fines as a result of taking their child out of school under the age of 5.


Legal Advice for School Absence

If you are facing legal issues relating to taking your child out of school, or unauthorised term-time absence, consider contacting our team of Kent education solicitors.


Our team have a deep understanding of all areas of education law and are happy to provide legal advice and guidance relating to all educational matters.


Contact our teams at our Maidstone, Canterbury, Tenterden or London offices, or call us today on 01622 698000.