Leave of Absence Requests

New regulations for taking holidays in term time

The Department for Education has made amendments to the regulations which previously allowed Headteachers the discretion to grant holidays taken during term time.  The new regulations come into force from 1st September 2013 and we have unfortunately had to revise our school policy based upon this new government legislation which states, in summary, that:
  • The current law does not give parents any entitlement to take their children out of school for a holiday during term time.
  • Any application for leave must only be in ‘exceptional’ circumstances and the Headteacher must be satisfied that the circumstances are ‘exceptional’ and warrant the granting of leave. 
  • In ‘exceptional’ circumstances, a request for absence must be made in advance, to the Headteacher, who will inform you of his/her decision prior to booking your holiday.
  • If a request for leave is not authorised by the Headteacher and the pupil goes on holiday, the absence will be recorded as unauthorised, which then stays on a child’s permanent record.
We are required by law to report unauthorised absences to the Local Authority, who may issue a Fixed Penalty Notice, which means a parent may be fined by the Education Welfare Service.  The regulations do stipulate that fixed penalty fines will be issued and from 1 September 2013 parents must pay £60 within 21 days or £120 within 28 days. I must also make parents aware that due to equalities legislation, fixed penalty notices will now be issued to all parents who have parental responsibility and whom can be traced. This means that both the Father and Mother of a child will receive separate fines, under the new regulations, and that each parent will incur a fine for each child. Please be aware that the proceeds from fixed penalty fines DO NOT go to the school.
 
The Government have not yet provided clear guidance about the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and what is considered to be ‘exceptional’ for one person may not be seen as such by another. Some examples which we are aware of are:
  • The fact that a holiday is cheaper during term time is unlikely to be considered as ‘exceptional circumstances’.
  • ‘exceptional’ circumstances are much more likely to be unique and/or ‘one-off’ situations eg: due to a parent’s work/employment commitments. NB:  Proof may be required from an employer in such circumstances.
  • where there has been a trauma or bereavement in the family or where the opportunity for such a holiday is highly unlikely to arise in the future.
Guidance states that ultimately it is for the Headteacher to decide if the circumstances are ‘exceptional’ and I will be meeting other local Headteachers shortly, to define ‘exceptional circumstances’, with a view to all local schools adopting the same policy. We also hope to have clearer guidance from Government and the Local Authority during the Autumn term.
As a result of this legislation, Headteachers would not be expected to deem any term time holiday as ‘exceptional’ and therefore any decision to grant leave will be made by our attendance panel using the following criteria:
  • The individual circumstances as to why the holiday is being requested in term time
  • The child’s attendance record and percentage of absences
  • The age of the child and the time of year proposed for the holiday
  • The child’s attainment and progress 
Our holiday request forms have been changed in line with the regulations and when a parent/carer wishes to apply to take their child out of school during term time they must now complete a leave of absence form which should be submitted to the school for approval prior to booking the holiday.  It is important to carefully consider the implications of taking your child out of school during term time and the effect that this may have on their education. Any request for leave during the first 2 weeks in September will not be authorised as this is an important time in a child’s education as they are settling into a new school/class.  Similarly, leave will not be authorised for Year 6 pupils during the 2 weeks before SATs and during the week of SATs. 
 
I anticipate the strength of feeling this information will generate, firstly because of the short notice by which it has been introduced and the implications arising from it. I can assure you that I fully appreciate and completely understand that this may cause difficulties for some families especially from a financial perspective.  However, irrespective of my own personal feelings, schools are required to operate within Government regulations and we have had no option but to change our policies and procedures accordingly.  
 
If you have already booked a holiday for the next academic year and have submitted a holiday form to school, please contact the school as soon as possible. In cases where proof is provided that the holiday was booked prior to these changes being announced, we will authorise the holiday on this occasion. All new applications for leave will be considered using the criteria outlined above.
 
Further information and guidance can be found on the DfE website www.education.gov.uk/schools/pupilsupport/behaviour/attendance.  I hope that we can rely upon your support in this matter and I will keep you informed of any future developments and provide you with further information as it becomes available.

Published on Tuesday 23 April 2013 by Mr M Hall.