Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

United Kingdom: New Restrictions Halt School-Time Vacations

(Sept. 23, 2013) Amendments to the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 came into force on September 1, 2013, coinciding almost perfectly with the start of a new term for school children across England. These amendments place restrictions on absences that head teachers may grant to children when school is in session (in the UK, this is known as term time). As the law stands now, children may only be granted a leave of absence from school if there are exceptional circumstances. (The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/756, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

Previously, head teachers had the discretion to grant permission for children to be taken out of school for up to ten days for family vacations during term time, if the parents applied in advance and the head teacher considered “that [a] leave of absence should be granted due to the special circumstances relating to that application.” (The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, SI 2006/1751, ¶ 7(3(b) (as enacted), LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.)

The 2013 amendments to this regulation remove the discretion of the head teacher to permit a leave of absence for family vacations, as well as the reference to the ten-day period. (The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, supra.) Instead, the head teacher may now only grant a leave of absence for students in exceptional circumstances. The Department of Education notes that it does not anticipate head teachers considering a family holiday to be an “exceptional circumstance.” (Can I Take My Child on Holiday in Term Time? Department for Education website (July 24, 2013).)

These regulations are not without teeth and are backed up by the recently amended Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007, which provide that if parents do not ensure that their children attend school, they can receive a penalty notice and pay a fine of £60 (approximately US$100). If the fine is not paid within the first 21 days of notification, it doubles to £120. The same fines also apply to parents whose children are in public places during the first five days after they have been suspended or permanently expelled from school. (Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007, SI 2007/1867, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK; relevant amendment in The Education (Penalty Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/757, LEGISLATION.GOV.UK.) The Education Act also provides for the prosecution of parents who do not ensure that their children regularly attend school, with those convicted facing a fine of up to £2,500 (approximately US$4,000) and/or three months in jail. (Education Act 1996, c. 56, s. 444.)

The new legislation, aimed at improving school attendance, has been met with heavy criticism from both parents and some Members of Parliament, who claim that it penalizes poorer families who cannot afford vacations when school is out of session, as prices for vacations are vastly increased during this time. (Poorer Children Will Miss Out on Holidays, Says Tyneside MP, CHRONICLE LIVE (Aug. 19, 2013).)