Why are family holidays in term time making headlines lately?
The Department for Education has recently made amendments to the rules regarding term-time holidays. It has since become more difficult for parents to convince schools to let their children miss class, in order to avoid peak-season increases.
What exactly has changed?
Headteachers in England can no longer approve absences of up to 10 days annually for family holidays in "special circumstances" since September 2013. The new regulations enforce stringent criteria of "exceptional circumstances", which only apply to absences for specific events like the funeral of a family member.
What is the legal standing?
Parents and guardians are legally obligated to ensure that their children attend school, not including when homeschooled. Non-compliance with this obligation is regarded as an offence under section 444 of the Education Act 1996. Parents have no right to remove their wards from school during term time for vacations.
What does the Department for Education say about this?
"Poor school attendance can lead to incredible damage, and students who attend school regularly are almost four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who miss school regularly."
What are the consequences for parents who break the laws?
Parents who do not get permission from the school for their child’s absence are liable to pay a maximum fine of £60 per parent, per pupil. The fine increases to £120 if unpaid within 7 days. Offenders who refuse to pay face court action and a fine of up to £2,500 as well as up to three months in jail.
How many parents have paid the fine?
A survey conducted by The Key, school advisers, illustrated that one-quarter of the primary school heads in England have imposed a fine on guardians for unauthorized absences. Recently, a couple from Telford paid just under £1,000 after going on an unauthorized vacation with their three children to Greece.
Why is this a problem for families?
Due to the peak holiday season, flight and lodging costs increase. Therefore, families argue that term-time holidays are the only way to afford enriching trips abroad with their children.
Why is this a problem for establishments?
High pupil absenteeism rates are monitored by the Department for Education and Ofsted, and it deprives children of crucial lecture hours. Competition and league tables imply that schools require their students to perform well in exams and at key stages.
Is this really such a big issue?
Yes. The Bradford Metropolitan Council reported that parents in the city took approximately 41,000 days of education off for vacation during the term-time between September 2013 and Easter 2014. The council states that "children who miss a substantial amount of school time sufifer in terms of progress and attainment."
Does a week’s absence make much difference in the child’s education?
A child who misses a week of school each year will miss a minimum of 70 days, which amounts to over three months of teaching time by the end of his or her school time.
Is there a solution available?
Local authorities and schools could vary the timing of their holidays, resulting in unique parts of the country off at different times; this would reduce the problem.
Will forcing holiday companies and airlines to lower peak prices make any difference?
An outburst on Facebook has drawn attention to legislation or controls which could prevent holiday price-gouging. However, if this were enforced, it might end up affecting the number of holidays offered altogether. Furthermore, August and Christmas are unalterable fixtures on the calendar with no scope for adjustment.
Any long-term strategies?
Parents could choose to acknowledge that their child’s classroom education is more important than a European holiday, regardless of the numerous museums they visit. This is particularly relevant for young children, since early-years education is fundamental for later success.