The law and taking children out of school for holidays in term time banner


The law and taking children out of school for holidays in term time

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Every child in the UK must get an education. This starts from the school term after their fifth birthday and lasts until the last Friday in June of the school year in which they reach the age of sixteen. Education is compulsory in the UK and children can only miss school if they are either too ill to attend or have permission in advance from the school.

New statutory guidance has been issued by the Department for Education which will come into effect on 19 August 2024. The aim of the guidance is to help improve school attendance across the education sector.

Authorised absences

A parent or carer can approach the head teacher to ask for permission in advance of removing a child from school. If the head teacher grants the request, this will be considered an authorised absence. For example, a parent may ask that their child be excused from school to attend a wedding or a funeral and it is likely such a request will be granted.

Holidays in term time

Some parents book holidays outside the school holiday window to take advantage of cheaper pricing. They may ask the head teacher for authorisation to remove their child from school to take them on holiday. If the head teacher does not authorise the absence or if the parent simply does not ask for authorisation, the school will record the child as having an unauthorised absence.

Consequences of unauthorised absence

The new national framework requires local councils to consider issuing a fine where there has been five days or more unauthorised absence over a rolling period of ten school weeks. The five days’ unauthorised absence are described as ten sessions.

Fines will be levied on each parent. Up until 18 August 2024 the fine is £60, rising to £120 if the parent does not settle the fine within twenty-eight days. From 19 August 2024, the fine increases to £80 and £160 where the parent does not pay the fine within twenty-eight days.

The fine will take the form of a penalty notice. A penalty notice can be issued by the head teacher (or a deputy or assistant head), a local authority officer or the police.

Repeated or persistent unauthorised absences

Should the child have persistent unauthorised absences, the head teacher and local authority have additional remedies available to address the problem.

These include prosecution, parenting orders, education supervision orders and school attendance orders. These types of remedies will involve the local council social work department and are used in cases of persistent unauthorised absences. It is unlikely those taking children out of school during term time to go on holiday will be likely to face these types of orders unless it is a frequent occurrence.


If you do decide to go on holiday during term time, before you book, seek authorisation from the head teacher to remove your child from school. There will be no consequences if you receive authorisation. If your request for authorisation is denied and you go ahead and take your child out of school, you may face a fine if the absence from school lasts more than five days. Five days unauthorised absence is the trigger point. That means if there have been previous unauthorised absences unrelated to holidays, these will count towards the five days.

If you take your child out of school for more than five days during term time, each parent is likely to face a fine. Clearly, where parents have separated and only one parent is taking the child on holiday, the parent who is not going on holiday will not be affected by this. Perhaps the best option, to avoid a fine, is to take your children on holiday during the school holidays.


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