For many, September marks the return to school and college as a new term begins. But if someone offered you a discounted holiday for you and your family, including a young child, would you take it? What about if it meant a fine from the local council, too?
With more and more travel companies offering families the chance to get away before the school holidays, and for cheaper, the Government has enforced regulation in an attempt to boost children's school attendance.
Local councils, and now schools, can use various legal powers if your child is missing from school without good reason. As well as fines, you can be prosecuted if you don't make sure your child receives an education.
What qualifies as 'good reason?'
The Government website says that a child can only miss school providing they are a) too ill to attend, or b) you, as the parents have got advance permission from the school.
How do I get 'advance permission' from the school?
In order to take your child out of school during term time, you must receive written permission from the headteacher first. You can usually only do this if you make an application to the headteacher well in advance, are a parent that the child in question normally lives with, and if there are exceptional circumstances.
A hugely discounted holiday doesn't qualify as an exceptional circumstance.
What are the repercussions of taking my child out of school without permission from the school?
If your child is missing from school without good reason (see above), legal action can be taken against you, as the parent of the child in question.
Parenting Order: This means you have been ordered by the council to attend parenting classes. You'll also have to follow court orders to help improve your child's attendance.
Education Supervision Order: Should the council find that you need support in getting your child to attend school, but you are not co-operating with the court orders, they can apply to the courts to get an Education Supervision Order. This means a supervisor will be appointed to your case in order to help you get your child to attend school. The local council can do this at the same time as prosecuting you.
School Attendance Order: If the local council thinks your child isn't getting enough education, you have 15 days to provide evidence that you have registered your child with a school, or that you are providing them with a home education. If you don't provide this evidence, you may well be prosecuted.
Penalty notice: Instead of being prosecuted, you can be served with a prosecution notice. The penalty is £60, but it rises to £120 if paid after 21 days, but before 28 days. If you don't pay the fine, you will be prosecuted.
Prosecution: You can receive a fine of up to £2,500, receive a community order or a 3-month jail sentence. The court also issues you with a Parenting Order.
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