So what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to ‘authorised absence’?

I’ve written about this before and it evoked quite an interesting discussion both on here, through my colleagues and friends on Facebook and on Twitter about what should and shouldn’t be allowed as an authorised absence and whether people should be paying these fines introduced under the new government regulations.

Well head teachers’ union NAHT have now released some guidelines that have been drawn up over what is and isn’t allowed, which has allegedly received the backing of current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

Funerals, weddings and religious events will count as acceptable “exceptional circumstances” but cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the current system had caused confusion among heads. He said the new guidance would also permit time off to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces, and for children with disabilities or special needs who are suffering a family crisis.

Until September 2013, heads in England could grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for family holidays in “special circumstances”. But now head teachers can grant absence outside school holidays only in “exceptional circumstances”. Mr Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an ‘exceptional circumstance’. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic.”

He said the NAHT guidelines would help identify an “event whose timing cannot be controlled and which are great emotional significance to the families involved”. But Mr Hobby said pupils should not be given “extended leave” either side of an event.

He said there had been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without approval and not all were holidaymakers.

Last week, the Local Government Association said the new rules do not recognise the complexities of family life and head teachers should be allowed to take a “common-sense approach” to term time holidays. Mr Hobby said: “So what about allowing holidays in term time simply because of the cost? I’m afraid these just don’t fit the bill. It’s not a good enough reason to damage an education. You cannot easily make up the lost learning at home, and falling behind in class can put children at a permanent disadvantage. Those who work in schools share your pain. Many are parents themselves and pay these prices, too. We must tackle this. The government should work with the holiday industry to find a way through.”

Local authorities are obliged to instigate fines and enforce legal proceedings on behalf of schools in cases of unauthorised absences. Parents who take children out of school during term-time can receive automatic penalty notices of £60 per child. This rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. Parents who fail to pay could face prosecution and a maximum fine of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

So, it’s clearer now, under family circumstances such as weddings, bereavements and religious events are fine, but taking children out of school just for a cheaper holiday is a no go. So if you want to take your child on holiday, then pay the price for it, like you would for anything else such as food or housing or cars, which don’t just come around for free. Honestly I find it frustrating, people have often said to me ‘oh but look at the experiences they can have in these places and what they can learn.’ My response to that is ‘Yeah, and is that really why they’re going on holiday?’ to which the simple answer is no.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying don’t take your children on holiday, but what I’m saying is don’t bargain with your children’s education just to cut the cost down. You might say ‘well i’ll take the risk and refuse to pay the fine’, but look at the consequences of that. You would have to pay probably more than the saving you made compared to going on holiday out of term time, and face a jail sentence and a criminal record. Is it really worth it? For me, no it isn’t. I mean sure, I’m 22 and don’t have children of my own, but I am of the mindset that if you want something, you pay the money for it. If you can’t afford it, well you don’t get it, simple as that.

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6 thoughts on “So what is allowed and what isn’t when it comes to ‘authorised absence’?

  1. When I was 16 my mother died from cancer and as a result I had two weeks off school- I had just started Sixth form and the learning was crucial. There were no fines then, but not one teacher (I was studying 4 Science A Levels) offered help to catch me up. They obviously didn’t think that 2 weeks off was that important.

    So, it does seem ridiculous that 2 weeks off primary school would make any difference to a child’s learning.

    I am glad that you opened the debate, because I might too have agreed with your view that a parent may be ‘bargaining with your child’s education to keep the cost down’, (and let’s just stop to think about how the government bargains with a child’s education to keep the cost down).

    But now I am a parent, I realise that in fact the richness of time away from school ‘on holiday’ is a learning experience. Receiving what is essentially a parking fine as a result is just wrong.

    1. Hi Helen, nice to hear from you again. I’m sorry to hear about your loss and rather negative experiences with regards to school. I understand how it feels to lose people young as it happened to me on quite a few occasions, all of which were in fact when I was younger than that. I went to a grammar school where the expectation was that you caught up the work but I was more fortunate that my teachers gave me a lot of support to assist me with catching up.

      As I said in my original post, I’m 22 and don’t have children of my own so there are some things that I don’t know. But just to clarify things, I’m not against taking children on holiday at all, I’m not saying that it shouldn’t happen, but what I am saying is why does it have to be in school time, when they should be learning in schools, however you feel about that. Why take away part of their learning in schools to replace it with another way of learning when you can potentially have both if the children were taken away out of term time? Especially given that the only real reasons that are cited for it in anything I’ve read are financial reasons.

  2. I admire your love for the Education system and respect that. I can not respect state control! This makes me sick..Education is far more than within walls of Schools. Travelling creates opportunities you can not find in any classroom, given your kids choices come out during term times..is teaching children they can choose to live Their way.
    not nod your head like a dog and say yes..I will do as I am told. Wait..if I don’t do as I am told I won’t be able to pay for your lunches..or holidays because I Fear the consequences. .feed the fear and stay asleep! Come on..what is real about this!😆 #wakeup we don’t have to be sheeple..we can be compassionate beings living and learning, enjoying life. State control stops choice..That’s not fair or right.. #RadicalUnschooling where you have a choice your kids have choice and life is full of wonder..adventure..and we look to our happiness to determine if we are Enjoying life.

    Life is beautiful when you create it 🙂 have a lovely day everyone ♡

    1. Hi Maryanne nice to hear from you again

      There are things that concern me about what you said.

      1) I don’t know if you appear to get the impression that I support the way the government is going with education or not, but to clarify, I’ve been very much against a lot of where the government is going for a long time. I’ve hated the new academies that have been built with mixed results, the idea that unqualified teachers could effectively take my place in a world of work after I have completed a university degree qualifying me to take those positions, and the pace in which changes have been brought in giving mixed results. However there are some things that I do agree with them on, including the new curriculum, which actually has if you look into it more closely, effectively called the teachers’ bluff by putting a lot more emphasis on the core subjects and almost giving freedom with the other subjects. I support the government on absences during term time because I don’t feel that replacing children’s learning in schools with a different one during term time should be acceptable just for financial reasons when you can potentially have both experiences with school during term time, and holiday during holiday time.

      2) The level of hashtagging in your post surprises me, given the fact that this isn’t twitter. I’m not a fan of unschooling but needless to say I would hope that you don’t encourage your children to use hashtagging when they’re writing in normal conversation or in other forms of communication.

      3) State control takes away choice? What if that choice isn’t a choice that needs to be made? What if that choice is between having the basic skills needed to survive in the world or learn about what you want to learn and potentially not have the choice? Learning wherever it is is an adventure, it doesn’t have to be in school or at home. I have in fact taught children in the past who had been through unschooling or homeschooling in the past, and have gone into schools and ended up way behind those in schools as they lacked the basic skills.

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