The debate continues regarding penalty notices being issued due to unauthorised leave of absence during term time.
This follows the high court ruling that that a parent simply has to prove "regular" attendance, which could potentially lead to parents questioning local authorities and schools over previous and future fines.
The Government Response
Nick Gibb, the schools minister, is reported to vow that the Government would do "everything in its power" to stop children being taken out of school for unauthorised breaks, including removing the requirement that attendance is regular. This could mean that all unauthorised absences are illegal.
Schools and academies are being challenged by parents stating that they have the right to take their children on holiday in term time with or without permission. The interpretation of ‘regular attendance’ in section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 is the key factor.
Currently, legislation and guidelines remain the same. The Dfe guidelines state that headteachers can authorise a leave of absence in exceptional circumstances at their discretion.
Best Practice for managing attendance
Good practice would be for school attendance policies to identify a clear process for parents to request a leave of absence including the criteria that schools will consider for authorisation, and what they consider is acceptable and regular attendance. Written responses to requests would clearly state the number of days authorised and the possible consequences.
90% attendance is the government’s threshold for identifying persistently absent pupils. This would flag up serious concerns. Any absence from school can affect a child’s education and should be avoided where possible.