Regular and punctual attendance at school/alternative provision is both a legal requirement and essential for pupils to maximise their educational opportunities.
Changes to leave of absence during term time
The Department for Education's (DfE) changes to The Education (Pupil Registration)(England) Regulations 2006 have removed all reference to family holiday and extended leave, as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days.
From 1 September 2013, headteachers are unable to agree leave of absence during term time unless they are satisfied there are exceptional circumstances.
Should absence be agreed, headteachers can specify the number of days a pupil will be allowed to be absent from school.
Where leave of absence is not agreed and the pupil is out of school or the pupil is away longer than was agreed or an application has not been made in advance, the absence is recorded as unauthorised.
Headteachers cannot give retrospective approval.
Where leave of absence is taken for a holiday that has not been authorised, a headteacher may request the local authority to issue a Penalty Notice.
Penalty Notices are issued to each parent for each child who is absent without the agreement of the headteacher.
Penalty Notices carry a fine of £60 per parent per child if not paid within 21 days increasing to £120 per parent per child if paid between 22-28 days.
There is no right of appeal against the issuing of a Penalty Notice because the authorisation of absence is the sole responsibility of the headteacher.
Where Penalty Notice(s) are unpaid, the local authority may consider taking legal action under Section 444(1) Education Act 1996 for failure to ensure a child's regular attendance at school.
If this happens, the case will take place before magistrates who could issue the maximum fine of £1000 per parent per child for this offence.
When a penalty notice may be issued
- Overt truancy (including pupils caught on truancy sweeps).
- Parentally-condoned absences.
- Unauthorised leave for the purpose of a family holiday in term-time.
- Delayed return from leave of absence without prior school agreement.
- Persistent late arrival at school (after the school register has closed).
- Where an excluded child is found in a public place during school hours during the first five days of exclusion.