School’s out for summer

birkettYou’re browsing through a holiday brochure, deciding where to go for that hard-earned break. The kids will have finished their exams for the year, and it would be good to spend some time together. Where could you take them for that treat? The Lake District perhaps, or Centre Parks, or how about Spain? You then look at the prices and your heart sinks. How can the cost of a holiday double at the end of July, just at the only time you and your family are free?

This is a familiar situation in which many readers will have found themselves. ‘Out of school’ holiday costs make it easy to understand why so many parents and grandparents are tempted to take holidays during term time. However, it is not as easy as that!

Schools used to be able to allow pupils up to ten days‘ term-time absence during the course of an academic year, but this is no longer the case and the change has caught out many parents and grandparents.

The new regulations mean that there are now very limited reasons as to why a pupil can be absent from school and parents must seek the school’s authorisation in advance before taking children out of school. The school can authorise absences where there are “exceptional circumstances” but holidays, visiting relatives, birthdays and routine appointments are not regarded as “exceptional circumstances”. This can make matters difficult for parents and grandparents who want to minimise holiday costs, but the law now ties the hands of schools in this respect.

Given that the school leaving age has gone up and will be going up again, those in further education will be caught by the new rules as well.

If, on investigation, the reason for any absence has not been provided to the school or the reason that has been given is not sufficient and does not fall within the new regulations, the pupil’s absence will be marked as unauthorised in the register and the school may have to inform the Education Welfare Officer. This can lead to fines and other penalties for the parent, so what you thought was going to be a cheap holiday can turn out to be a very expensive one after all!

Not only does this create financial pressure on parents and grandparents, but it can also put strain on working arrangements. It may be difficult to take your holidays at the same time as others who have children, especially if you work in a small business or a team with other parents. Although in some sectors workloads may lessen over the school holidays, this is certainly not the case for all. As much as employers might like to be able to allow their staff to take holidays when they wish, this is simply not possible; many employees do not realise that their employers have the right to decide when they can and cannot take their holidays. Such matters should be treated carefully by businesses, but informal arrangements between staff can help greatly, such as taking turns to book time off over school holidays, and employees should be encouraged to discuss holidays between them before booking.

Some have advocated a case for staggered school holidays to help to ease this situation. But given that children are often at different schools to their siblings and that the majority of parents need to work, I can think of many more day to day problems that might arise from such a change.

Emily Brown

BIRKETT LONG

T – 01206 217317

E – emily.brown@birkettlong.co.uk

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