As the first spring flowers start to appear, our thoughts turn to warmer days and family holidays in the sun. But if you’ve got a school as child, you’ll know that disappearing off for a week of fun isn’t as easy, or as cheap, as it used to be.
If you’re planning a trip away this year, organising your travel arrangements around the school holidays is essential – unless you want to come home to a possible £60 fine per parent per child from your local education authority.
With tougher rules for Essex parents now coming into force, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the council’s policy.
Holidays during term time
Unfortunately for families, there is no automatic entitlement to take children out of school for holidays during term time.
Parents and carers have a legal responsibility of making sure their child attends school. You can apply for a special exception (to attend a funeral, for example), but it’s up to the headteacher whether to grant an application for leave.
If you do not apply for leave of absence in advance, the absence will be recorded as unauthorised and you can be fined for taking your child on holiday without consent.
Will I receive a fine for taking my child out of school?
From October 2017, an Essex Code of Conduct for Penalty Notice may be issued if a child has 10 unauthorised absence sessions during a 10 week period. Each school day is made up of 2 sessions.
So, if you took your child out of school for 5 days without permission, you may be issued with a £60 fine per parent/carer per child.
There are stricter rules in place from September 2018; a penalty notice may be issued if there are 6 or more unauthorised sessions taken during the first two weeks of September.
That means if you take your child on holiday for 3 or more days in September, you are likely to receive a £60 fine.
*Note* If you receive a telephone call requesting a payment without first being notified by post, do not pay it as it may be a scam. Contact the Missing Education and Child Employment Services on 03330 139844.
Do I have to pay the fine?
If you don’t pay the fine with 21 days of it being issued, it will increase to £120.
If it isn’t paid within 28 days, you will be taken to magistrates’ court for failing to ensure your child attends school regularly.
This could result in a criminal record, a fine of up to £2,500 and up to three months in prison.
Absences are accepted only where a child is too ill to attend school or is attending a medical appointment (you may need to provide evidence, such as a letter from your doctor), if they are observing a recognised religious holiday, or if you have otherwise been granted advanced consent by the school.
For more information and legal advice if you receive a fine, visit childlawadvice.org.uk
You can also find full details of Essex County Council’s Attending School policy at www.essex.gov.uk/Education-Schools