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School Absence Request

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  • School Absence Request

    Hi,

    Looking for some preliminary legal advice before a meeting with the headteacher on Wednesday 13th October 2021...

    Back in 2019, we booked a Road Trip across Route 66 for which we require 4-5 weeks to complete. At the time of booking, my daughter was 3 years old and therefore not legally obliged to attend an educational establishment (although at the time she was attending the Nursery that is part of the school that she now attends).

    Due to the Pandemic and the international travel restrictions put in place by the US Government on residents of the UK, we were unable to take the trip as per our plan.

    We have now re-booked for June 2022 and have made a request to the school, which they have subsequently rejected and stated that it will be classed as unauthorised absence. To clarify, my daughter is now 5 and started Year 1 in September and is therefore legally obliged to attend an educational setting.

    The reason why this trip has to be taken in term time (i.e. June) is that the only alternative time to take it is in August. This presents a danger due to the extreme heat and humidity in some of the locations that we will travel through (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas etc.). So the justification has nothing to do with trying to keep the cost of the holiday down at all. Equally, receiving a fine for taking my daughter out of school does not bother me - it is more the principal of the way the school have managed this request and not deemed it an 'exceptional circumstance'.

    Can anyone give me some advice on how I approach this with the Headteacher?
    Tags: None

  • #2
    In my opinion you are better to just accept paying the fine. It should be 60 each. As a school governor and a magistrate who hears cases such as this where the fine is not paid I do not see any exceptional circumstances. These tend to be funerals etc. I fully understand that you wish to take the trip and I am sure your child will learn a lot during it. However I personally do not think you can avoid the fine - pay it with a smile! This is just my personal view - others may think differently.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think you need to explain to the Head Teacher, the situation wasn't of your making, so you shouldn't be penalized for taking your daughter out of school for the period of the trip. I'm not sure at 5 years old she's going to miss too much, she'll clearly be able to catch up on what she's missed out on when she returns. Appeal the decision.

      The only reason I think the school would be against it is, 'setting a precedent', they don't want to set a trend.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by islandgirl View Post
        In my opinion you are better to just accept paying the fine. It should be 60 each. As a school governor and a magistrate who hears cases such as this where the fine is not paid I do not see any exceptional circumstances. These tend to be funerals etc. I fully understand that you wish to take the trip and I am sure your child will learn a lot during it. However I personally do not think you can avoid the fine - pay it with a smile! This is just my personal view - others may think differently.
        Thanks for your feedback - appreciated from someone who clearly has experience in this area! :-)

        What I can't quite get my head round at the moment is around the exceptional circumstances - I appreciate that prior the COVID-19 an exceptional circumstance in the context of absence from school would quote rightly be something like a funeral or bereavement etc., however their is no precedent for the Global Pandemic and the subsequent impact that it has had on people. It feels to me like there needs to be more flexibility and compassion from the school head given the situation.

        I have also found a couple of examples of other LEA's (Plymouth and Somerset) that are making allowances for situations such as this as long as the parent can provide evidence that the original holiday was booked at a time when absence would not have been classed as unauthorised.

        Agree with you that I will probably end up taking the fine but I am a person of principle so finding this decision very hard to swallow! The whole process of it being completely down to the Head Teachers discretion and there being no natural appeals process feels very dictatorial...

        Comment


        • #5
          Devon pay the fine. Exceptional circumstances is funerals etc.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by echat11 View Post
            I think you need to explain to the Head Teacher, the situation wasn't of your making, so you shouldn't be penalized for taking your daughter out of school for the period of the trip. I'm not sure at 5 years old she's going to miss too much, she'll clearly be able to catch up on what she's missed out on when she returns. Appeal the decision.

            The only reason I think the school would be against it is, 'setting a precedent', they don't want to set a trend.
            Thanks for the feedback! I have the meeting with the head on Wednesday so it's my opportunity to give more context and background to the circumstances (although the way in which the school have managed and engaged with me on the request is another matter!).

            I have also offered for my daughter to share with her class her experience and learning from the trip as well as the school assigning her homework whilst she is away so I feel that I have gone more than above and beyond to mitigate the impact to her education.

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi DJLW84 I understand your argument but it is not compelling I am afraid, This is a holiday which you could take in school holiday time (I am not preaching as I also did take my kids out of school on occasion!). The "dangerous temperature" argument is not believable. How do young Texans survive? I have been in California in July/August with young kids and they all survived! What you will save by going in June as opposed to August will more than pay the fine. The issue will have no impact on your child's school record. I am sorry but I see no exceptional circumstances whatsoever. Go and enjoy your holiday and pay the fine!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by islandgirl View Post
                Hi DJLW84 I understand your argument but it is not compelling I am afraid, This is a holiday which you could take in school holiday time (I am not preaching as I also did take my kids out of school on occasion!). The "dangerous temperature" argument is not believable. How do young Texans survive? I have been in California in July/August with young kids and they all survived! What you will save by going in June as opposed to August will more than pay the fine. The issue will have no impact on your child's school record. I am sorry but I see no exceptional circumstances whatsoever. Go and enjoy your holiday and pay the fine!
                Appreciate what you are saying, however, in response to that I would argue that 'young Texans' are native to that climate. Also, to reinforce, this is not a decision that has been driven by a financial motive. It is actually more expensive going when we are (June/July) as we are there over the 4th July weekend - and this is exactly my concern with the school - they clearly think that I am trying to save money on my holiday (as I am sure the majority of parents that take their kids out of School during term time are!) - but it is completely unfair and unreasonable to make that assumption about every request.

                As I said, it all comes across very dictatorial which does not sit well with me....I am essentially being punished for something that is outside of my control.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by djlw84 View Post

                  Appreciate what you are saying, however, in response to that I would argue that 'young Texans' are native to that climate. Also, to reinforce, this is not a decision that has been driven by a financial motive. It is actually more expensive going when we are (June/July) as we are there over the 4th July weekend - and this is exactly my concern with the school - they clearly think that I am trying to save money on my holiday (as I am sure the majority of parents that take their kids out of School during term time are!) - but it is completely unfair and unreasonable to make that assumption about every request.

                  As I said, it all comes across very dictatorial which does not sit well with me....I am essentially being punished for something that is outside of my control.
                  I would put your case to the Head Teacher (take your evidence) on Wednesday. Good luck.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I understand your viewpoint but think you misunderstand the rules which are that you cannot take your child out of school without being fined unless there are exceptional circumstances. It does not matter if you are doing so to save money or not. Your motive does not matter unless it is one of the very few which would be classed as exceptional circumstances. I do not think you are being punished and I would argue that it is within your control (ie you could go in the Summer - the temperature argument does not hold water I am afraid). You can put your points to the Headteacher of course when you meet but I would not be persuaded in her shoes. Of course you have the ultimate test of your argument if you wish - do not pay the fine and go to court and argue it there. However if you lose the fine is based on your weekly earnings and not 60 flat fee! Let us know how your meeting goes - the Head may think differently than I do!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by islandgirl View Post
                      I understand your viewpoint but think you misunderstand the rules which are that you cannot take your child out of school without being fined unless there are exceptional circumstances. It does not matter if you are doing so to save money or not. Your motive does not matter unless it is one of the very few which would be classed as exceptional circumstances. I do not think you are being punished and I would argue that it is within your control (ie you could go in the Summer - the temperature argument does not hold water I am afraid). You can put your points to the Headteacher of course when you meet but I would not be persuaded in her shoes. Of course you have the ultimate test of your argument if you wish - do not pay the fine and go to court and argue it there. However if you lose the fine is based on your weekly earnings and not 60 flat fee! Let us know how your meeting goes - the Head may think differently than I do!
                      Really appreciate the point of view - thank you :-)

                      With regards to the fine, is that, again, at the HT's discretion whether she recommends a fine? Or is it automatic?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by djlw84 View Post

                        Really appreciate the point of view - thank you :-)

                        With regards to the fine, is that, again, at the HT's discretion whether she recommends a fine? Or is it automatic?
                        to clarify, I am asking because I am aware of other parents that were 'let off' the fine last summer and told it was their final warning.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          If it is an unauthorised absence the LEA issue the fine - I assume the Head sends them the info. I would think if it was sent to the LEA as unauthorised then the fine is almost certain. If it goes to court and you are fined there is, so to speak, no escape! I am sure you will mention the other parents to the Head and if your circumstances mirror those exactly then you can ask to be afforded the same "last chance" but I think you did mention pre-existing bookings for those? Let us know how you get on!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by islandgirl View Post
                            If it is an unauthorised absence the LEA issue the fine - I assume the Head sends them the info. I would think if it was sent to the LEA as unauthorised then the fine is almost certain. If it goes to court and you are fined there is, so to speak, no escape! I am sure you will mention the other parents to the Head and if your circumstances mirror those exactly then you can ask to be afforded the same "last chance" but I think you did mention pre-existing bookings for those? Let us know how you get on!
                            The other parents situations that I mention were simple cases of they wanted to take their child on holiday during term time because it was cheaper. So my argument will be whilst it can be debated whether my circumstance is exceptional, the circumstance is certainly more complex than the other parents I am aware of.

                            Do you know what the impact to the school is if/when they do authorise absences like this? I am keen to understand what the consequence is to the HT/School if they were to authorise it...My assumption is that if it is purely the HT's discretion then she doesn't have to justify that decision to anyone else (i.e. OFSTED, LEA etc...)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Only posting for information - https://www.hartbrown.co.uk/latest-n...ing-term-time/

                              There was talk in 2016 of reviewing it (holidays during term time), the Supreme Court (no comment) passed judgement on a case.

                              https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk...ourt-judgment/

                              Comment

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