Spike in school absence for unauthorised family holidays

Spike in school absence for unauthorised family holidays

An extra 100,000 children missed school in England for an unauthorised family holiday in 2015/16 compared with the previous year, new figures show.

The rise follows a legal ruling last May that overturned efforts to fine father Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight for taking his daughter to Disney World during term time.

The supreme court is considering an appeal against the ruling and is expected to issue its judgment shortly.

The percentage of pupils missing at least one session of school – half a school day – due to an unauthorised holiday went up from 10.4% in 2014/15 to 11.9% in 2015/16, according to figures published yesterday by the Department for Education.

Just under 802,000 children missed at least one school session, up from just under 692,000 the year before.

A DfE spokesperson told The Guardian: “Today’s figures show overall absence rates remain at historic lows, and thanks to the hard work of schools and local authorities the proportion of pupils who persistently miss school has fallen by more than a third since 2010/11.

“The rules are clear – children should not be taken out of school without good reason. Evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances.

“That is why we have tightened the rules to put teachers firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and we are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence.”

The issue of term-time holidays was highlighted after the government introduced regulations in 2013 curtailing the ability of headteachers at state schools in England to grant up to two weeks term-time holiday for pupils with good attendance.

It led to a surge in fines for unauthorised absences imposed on parents by local authorities, and complaints from families seeking to avoid the higher cost of travel during school holidays.

The rate of overall absence at English schools in 2015/16 has remained the same as the previous year at 4.6% and down from 6.5% in 2006/07.

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