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Ask The Legal Expert- Taking Children Out Of School

View profile for Angela Killa
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This month, Angela Killa, from the Family Law team at JCP Solicitors, tackles an issue around leaves of absence from school.

We’re planning a family reunion in the US for a relative’s 70th birthday, so we need to travel on a particular date. Where do we stand on taking our children away in term-time?

There has been a lot of media coverage around cases of families taking their children on holiday outside of their school holiday time.

Many parents feel they’re being unfairly targeted by travel companies, who increase their prices during the school holidays, and these extra costs can be a burden.

However, fines are frequently levied against parents who take their children out of school for extended periods during school time.

Section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 states that parents should ensure ‘regular’ attendance of their children at school.

The way things stand at the moment, you will need permission from your children’s head teacher regarding your trip. The head teacher can use their discretion as to whether they grant this.

Many Local Authorities publish a Code of Conduct, outlining the criteria the head teacher will consider when deciding whether to grant a request for an absence.

If you decide to take your children with you without this permission you may face a criminal conviction and a fine -  usually £60, though this may double if not paid within the allotted time frame.

One recent case saw a father from the Isle of Wight take his daughter out of school for a holiday to Florida. His daughter missed seven days of lessons having previously had an attendance record of more than 90 percent.

He was fined for this, but his subsequent appeal to the Magistrates Court was upheld - the Court agreed that the father had ensured his daughter’s regular attendance at school. A subsequent High Court also agreed with the father. 

After an appeal by the Local Authority, the matter came before the Supreme Court in 2016, with the Court asked to determine whether a seven day absence was compatible with ‘regular attendance.’  A decision is pending.

Feelings run high on this issue, with pressure groups calling on travel firms to be less opportunistic about their pricing, or urging Local Authorities to stagger their holiday times.

For more information, please contact Angela on: 01267 248893 or by email at angela.killa@jcpsolicitors.co.uk.

*The question posed in this blog is based on a hypothetical situation.

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