It has undoubtedly been one of the most controversial and well talked about new laws of recent times – fining parents for taking their children out of school during term-time. It has infuriated parents who have had to contend with inflated holiday costs during school holidays or take the risk of a fine or even a trip to court! In May 2016 one father challenged a fine of £120 he received for taking his daughter on holiday to Florida during school time and won. Since then, although the law remains in force Local Authorities appear to be softening their stance – so what is the latest?
- Derbyshire County Council this year became the first local authority to abolish fines for student absence during term time. Parents in this local authority area will avoid the fine as long as the pupil’s total attendance over the previous year is 95% or above. The council said that this should not be seen as a green light to take students on holiday during school time and that it should still only happen in exceptional circumstances
- The official government ruling on this is that you have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time. This can only be done if:
- you make an application to the head teacher in advance
- there are exceptional circumstances
Please note that it is currently up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.
It is within the authority of local councils and schools to prosecute if your child is missing school without a good reason. If this is deemed to be the case they can give you:
- Court costs
- A criminal record
- A jail sentence of up to three months
- A fine of up to £2500
So, how much are we talking fine wise? Your local council can give you a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if you don’t pay within 21 days. If you do not pay the fine after 28 days you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school. Prosecution could involve a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence up to 3 months
What is all this likely to mean moving forward we hear you cry? Well, despite the ruling in the case of Jon Platt, the law in this area is still not clear cut. However, it has set an important precedent which means that Local Education Authorities (LEA) may not rush to prosecute those who refuse to pay fines relating to term time holidays.
An article in The Sheffield Star recently highlights Sheffield LEA are to continue fining parents for taking term-time leave. http://www.thestar.co.uk/our-towns-and-cities/sheffield/sheffield-council-standing-firm-on-term-time-holiday-fines-despite-landmark-case-1-8361639