Managing term time absence

The Key
The Key
The BBC recently reported on a rise in term-time absence in schools and according to statistics, the number of fines issued to parents in England for taking children on term time holidays has almost doubled in a year. We spoke to one of our associate experts to find out what schools can do when parents plan to take their children on holiday during term time.

Our associate expert, former headteacher David New, said that under normal circumstances, there is little a school can do to prevent a parent taking a child on holiday during term time.

However, he said that schools should take action if they have any safeguarding concerns. For example, if a school is worried that the child is being take abroad to undergo female genital mutilation, it should report these concerns to the appropriate authority.

When a parent plans to take their child on a term-time holiday, undeterred by the threat of a penalty

David advised that the school could write to the parent to inform them that that the holiday has not been approved. The letter could also discuss how term-time absence can affect pupils’ learning, exam results and future prospects.

If the headteacher decides to have a meeting with the parent, they should think carefully about what arguments the parent will present in defence of the holiday and consider how to respond to them.

Parents may argue that they should take the child on holiday during term time for financial reasons, for example, or because the holiday is educational or will bring the child other benefits. They may also challenge the headteacher to defend instances when the school was closed and pupils lost teaching time, such as during a flood or snowy weather.

David suggested that a governor or another senior member of staff attend the meeting to support the headteacher. He also recommended that the school discuss the issue with parents in a sensitive way, because there could be a more serious reason for the holiday, such as a family funeral.

The importance of a consistent approach

David stressed that schools should apply rules on term-time absences consistently and in line with their policies. For instance, if the school refuses to authorise term-time absences for holidays for one family, it should refuse all such requests.

The headteacher should also make sure that the governors agree with the school’s decision. David added that if the school changes its policy on term-time absences, this should be communicated clearly to parents. He said that if the parents have already booked the holiday, then they are unlikely to change their mind about taking the child out of school.

However, he said that it would still be a good idea to take the actions he recommended, because it may deter the parent from arranging a term-time holiday again. David explained that the benefits of action against unauthorised absences are often felt the next academic year, after parents have been made aware of the consequences.

Members of The Key for School Leaders have access to our full article on managing term-time absence, as well as thousands of other resources on www.thekeysupport.com 

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