Can you avoid the half term holiday price hike? What the law says about taking children out of school


It’s been a year since the Government imposed a ban on holidays during term time, preventing parents taking children out of school to take advantage of cheaper holiday prices, and fining them if they did.
A survey by the BBC in August 2014 revealed that ‘absent without permission’ fines imposed by local council have risen by a massive 70%, with almost 64,000 fines issued since the law changed in September 2014.

The Schools Minister Nick Gibb hailed this as a triumph, insisting that fewer pupils would be missing vital lesson as a result. However, a closer look at the figures reveals that how many fines are issued very much depending where your child goes to school.

Boy and girl on beach

According to the survey by the BBC, in the first year of operation:


  • Hampshire issued less than 249 fines
  • Berkshire issued less than 500 fines
  • West Sussex issued 2,403
  • (No data was given for Surrey)
  • Top of the list was Lancashire, issuing no less than 3,106 fines

So, what are the regulations on removing children from school?

In the past, school heads could grant 10 days’ holiday “in special circumstances”. The new regulations removed this ability, but heads can still allow an extended leave of more than ten school days “in exceptional circumstances”. In other words, a holiday, however enriching it might be in terms of life experience, is unlikely to be deemed sufficient reason to remove your child from school. 
There is a Government requirement for parents to educate children “Between the school term after their 5th birthday and the last Friday in June in the school year they turn 16.”*  Failure to do so may result in prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996. As a parent, you may only allow your child to miss school if:


a) they are too ill to attend


b) you have permission in advance from the school


This permission can only be granted by the school head, and if permission is granted, the head teacher will decide how many days absence is allowed.

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, Section 23, your local council has various legal powers to ensure your child attends school, including a Parenting Order, an Education Supervision Order, a School Attendance Order, and the penalty notice (fine) discussed above. The current penalty is £60, rising to £120 if unpaid within 21 days, and penalties are issued per child, not per household. If you don’t pay within 28 days, you can be prosecuted which could lead to a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a custodial sentence of up to 3 months. However, it is worth noting that a council is not required to issue any order before prosecuting you.

In January 2014, a couple from Shropshire were ordered to pay almost £1000 in fines and costs for taking their three children to Greece for a week, making their cheaper holiday suddenly very much more expensive…