New Regulations for Parents Taking Children Out of School for Holidays

ByTravelling For Business

March 6, 2024
Parents are being alerted to the implementation of new regulations regarding the withdrawal of their children from school for holidays.Parents are being alerted to the implementation of new regulations regarding the withdrawal of their children from school for holidays.

Parents are being alerted to the implementation of new regulations regarding the withdrawal of their children from school for holidays.

In England, individuals who remove their children from classes without authorisation will face increased fines as part of an initiative aimed at enhancing school attendance.

This action follows a decline in attendance subsequent to the pandemic and a surge in homeschooling.

The Department for Education (DfE) has stipulated that a fine must be considered if a child is absent from school for five days without authorisation.

Currently, fines for school absences commence at £60, escalating to £120 if not settled within 21 days. However, the DfE has announced that fines will now commence at £80, rising to £160.

This decision comes in the wake of nearly 400,000 penalty notices issued to parents in England during the 2022-23 academic year for unauthorised school absences – a figure significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.

According to DfE data released in December, nearly nine out of ten (89.3%) of these fines were related to unauthorised holidays, as families sought to plan budget-friendly vacations outside of term times.

Government guidance is anticipated to clarify the circumstances under which financial penalties for school absences should be applied to ensure that fines are issued appropriately by local councils.

The DfE has stated that fines for school absences will be governed by a national framework to address disparities in their application across England.

What are the new school regulations?

Under the new measures, announced as part of the Government’s efforts to reduce the number of children frequently absent from school, every state school in England will share their daily attendance registers with the DfE, local councils, and academy trusts.

It is understood that the increased fines for absences will take effect from September.

The DfE anticipates that this dataset will enable schools to identify and support children at risk of persistent absence or those at risk of being disengaged from education.

Additionally, Rob Tarn, chief executive of Northern Education Trust and founder of England’s inaugural attendance hub, has been appointed by the DfE as the new national attendance ambassador.

Guidance outlining a “support-first” approach for schools and local authorities to assist pupils and their families in overcoming barriers to attendance will become statutory from August, according to the DfE.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan stated: “Our outstanding schools and teachers unlock children’s imagination, potential, and social skills, which is why improving attendance is my top priority.”

“Today, we are taking the next step to further enhance attendance, and I would like to express my gratitude to those working with us, including teachers and school leaders.”

“Education standards have significantly improved across the country, with Ofsted ratings increasing from 68% to nearly 90% since 2010. Pupils’ performance is globally recognised as some of the best, making school attendance more valuable than ever.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), commented: “Establishing a consistent national framework for fines is sensible. Currently, there is substantial disparity in how and when local authorities impose fines on parents.”

“However, parents may be taken aback that, at a time when schools are grappling with teacher shortages, deteriorating infrastructure, and a crisis in special educational needs provision, the Government is opting to focus on raising fines for parents.”

“While good attendance is undoubtedly crucial, fines have consistently proven to be an overly simplistic and largely ineffective measure for improving persistent absence.”

He added: “What is truly required to address poor attendance is targeted resources to ascertain the underlying reasons for absence, including support for vulnerable families and the mental health of children and young people.”

“Without these efforts, increased fines may simply exacerbate the challenges faced by already struggling families and children.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), remarked: “It is reasonable to raise the level of fines for unauthorised absence, considering they have remained fixed at £60 for several years.”

“However, it is important to recognise that these fines primarily relate to pupils being taken out of school for holidays during term time. While no one wishes to resort to fining parents, there must be a clear signal that such actions are unacceptable.”

“Not only does this impact the child’s education, but it also necessitates teachers spending time assisting children in catching up with missed learning. If everyone were to follow suit, it would result in chaos.”