There is no doubt that 2020 has been incredibly challenging for many families. After months of staying at home, worrying about the headlines and facing unprecedented obstacles, it’s natural to want to have something to look forward to. With the autumn term in full swing, it won’t be long until half-term arrives. Traditionally a time for getting away and enjoying a well-earned break, many families usually book holidays during half-term. This year, however, nothing is as expected. If you’re thinking about taking your kids away this October and you’re considering taking your children out of school, we’ll take a look at the latest advice and rules and regulations.
Am I allowed to take my children on holiday during term-time?
The most recent changes to school absence regulations came into play in 2013. Under new guidelines, schools are not permitted to allow children time off school unless there are exceptional circumstances. A global pandemic may seem like the perfect example of an exceptional scenario, but it will not impact parents’ ability to take their child out of school. All parents have a legal responsibility to ensure that their child attends school. Children can be absent for reasons linked to Covid-19, for example, isolating with symptoms or staying at home if there have been outbreaks at their school or within their home environment.
To take a leave of absence during term-time, parents must seek permission from the headteacher in advance. Leave will be granted in unique circumstances, for example, to attend a funeral or a medical appointment.
Holidays during Covid-19
It is worth noting when discussing holidays during half-term and term-time that there are widespread travel restrictions in place at the moment. If you are thinking of travelling in half-term, check the latest travel advice. Many countries are currently classified as ‘red,’ which means that individuals must quarantine for 14 days when they return. This is not practical for children who are required to be back at school and anyone who is unable to work from home.
How can I request a leave of absence?
If you believe that your circumstances are exceptional, and you want to take your child out of school during term-time, you should submit a formal Request for Leave of Absence. You will be asked to provide information related to your request and evidence to support your claims at least 21 days before the date you plan to take your child out of school. The headteacher will decide whether to grant the request and how long to allow the child to be out of school.
If your request to take your child out of school is denied, and you choose to go ahead and keep them off school, their absence will be classed as non-authorised and you could face a fine. The school will contact the local authority and a fixed penalty notice will be sent out. Currently, the fee is £60 per parent, per pupil, which increases to £120 if the fine is not paid within 21 days. If the payment is not settled within 28 days, the individual can be summoned to appear at a magistrates’ court.
Nothing is more appealing than a break in the sunshine after a tough year, but it’s wise to think twice about taking your kids on holiday. Absence from school is only granted in exceptional circumstances, and there are stringent restrictions in place governing where you can travel as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. With uncertainty looming, it may be best to stay at home or travel locally with your children this half-term.