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Petition Allow students to be taken out of school for two weeks a year without penalty

Families face school fines for taking their children out of school to go on affordable holidays. This can be a particular issue for low-income families, and families with children that have additional needs, who want or need to avoid busier and more expensive periods.

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I feel these families are being discriminated against as they may not find it possible to travel outside of term time, as it could be too costly or overwhelming, with travel, queues, noise, busy airports, busy public transport, busy resorts etc.

We think it's unfair that these families and children might not be able to go on holiday because they can't take time off during term time. Parents may also have additional needs that would make travelling at busy times difficult.

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Government responded

This response was given on 9 May 2024

Regular school attendance is vital for attainment, wellbeing and development. We are clear pupils should not miss school for term-time holidays, which cause disruption to teachers and other pupils.

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We sympathise with families who wish to avoid busier and more expensive periods, but the Government is clear that pupils should not miss school for term-time holidays. Whilst holidays can be enriching activities, regular school absence disrupts learning for everyone, and the school year is structured in such a way as to provide plenty of time for holidays outside of term-time. Schools also have considerable flexibility to plan term dates themselves, and hold inset days and other occasional days at less busy times of the year which can help families to plan family breaks at times that suit them.

Parents who have registered their child at a school have a legal responsibility to ensure they attend regularly. Regular attendance is vital for children’s attainment, mental wellbeing and long-term development, and taking them out of school can damage their education. Children inevitably miss some school due to childhood illnesses. Based on last year’s attendance data, a child who is taken out of school for a two-week holiday every year who also has an average number of days off for sickness and medical appointments, will have missed the equivalent of a full year of school by the time they finish year 11 at age 16. Absences for term-time holidays also cause unnecessary disruption to learning, making it more difficult for teachers to plan lessons and cover the curriculum, which is also disruptive for the other pupils in the class. If every child were to be taken out of school for two weeks, this would have significant consequences for teachers and for other children.

Improving school attendance is one of the Secretary of State for Education’s top priorities, The Government has a comprehensive support-first strategy in place to do this. This includes:
- Updated attendance guidance with clear expectations about how schools, trusts and local authorities should work together, including with pupils and families, to support each pupil’s individual needs, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities and mental ill health;
- An attendance data tool allowing early identification and intervention of pupils at risk of persistent absence;
- The Attendance Action Alliance of system leaders working to remove barriers to attendance
- A new national Attendance Ambassador to work with school leaders to champion attendance;
- Expert Attendance Advisers to support local authorities and school trusts and Attendance Hubs to support nearly 2,000 schools;
- And an Attendance Mentor pilot which is expanding from 5 to 15 areas from September to reach 10,000 children.

However, where support is not working, is not engaged with, or (as in the case of term-time holidays) is not appropriate, it is right that the law is in place to protect children’s right to education. From 19th August, our new National Framework will end the current postcode lottery by introducing a common threshold for considering a penalty notice of 10 sessions of unauthorised absence (equivalent to 5 days) within a 10-school-week period. For cases other than holiday, there is an expectation that attendance support will have already been provided. Local authorities retain the discretion to issue a penalty notice below the threshold of 10 sessions where it is deemed appropriate. It is up to them and the school to decide on the best course of action based on the circumstances of the individual case and what is most likely to improve attendance.

Department for Education

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