The Department of Education's guidance states that Headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.
There is no formal definition offered for exceptional leave at present by the Department for Education. Clearly there are many situations which may constitute exceptional circumstances, but as a general rule we interpret 'exceptional' in this context as being of unique and significant emotional, educational or spiritual value to the child, which outweighs the loss of teaching time. This interpretation will be different from one case to another, and whilst it will be important to look at any individual request carefully, many requests will, necessarily, be refused. Examples of exceptional leave are as follows:
- Forces staff returning from lengthy active service abroad.
- Emergency service staff being told when they can or cannot take leave.
- Parents having to work abroad for a fixed, minimum term period.
- If a close family member has a terminal illness and it may be a last chance to be together especially if the family member lives overseas.
Any requests made under the first three bullet points will need to be accompanied by evidence supplied by the employer.
DFE regulations include the imposition of penalty fines for parents and carers taking children out of school in unauthorised circumstances. They may be imposed more strictly by the Local Authority. Somerset County Council supports schools:
- in expecting parents and carers to make sure that children and young people attend school regularly. Any absence from school will impact on educational achievement, success in later life and longer term health and well being
- in ensuring the law is upheld. Parents and carers are committing an offence if they fail to ensure the regular and punctual attendance at school of their child. Schools must explain their stance on term time leave in their attendance policy so parents/carers are clear on expectations and potential consequences. Any unauthorised absence, including taking term time leave not agreed with the school, can result in a penalty notice being issued to each parent for each child. Any Penalty Notice unpaid is taken to Magistrates Court as failure to secure the regular attendance of their child. If found guilty of such an offence, they might receive a criminal conviction and a potential fine of up to £1,000.
Somerset County Council cannot override a school’s decision not to authorise any term time leave. There is no right of appeal.
A copy of our attendance policy can be found in the Policies section of Key Information.