Unauthorised term-time holidays soar after legal challenge

Unauthorised term-time holidays soar after legal challenge

A sharp increase in pupils missing school for unauthorised term time family holidays at the start of the school year in England last September has been revealed.

The rise – of nearly 60,000 pupils more compared with the previous year – followed a high court ruling last May in favour of father Jon Platt who successfully challenged Isle of Wight council’s fine for his daughter’s unathorised absence for a holiday in Florida.

The high court ruling was eventually overturned by the supreme court earlier this year, which reaffirmed the government’s ability to levy fines on parents for their children’s absences.

The initial decision was widely publicised and appears to have inspired parents to take advantage of cheaper holidays and travel costs during term time, The Guardian reported.

The Department for Education said: “The absence figures in this publication are the first that relate fully to the period after the Isle of Wight council v Jon Platt high court judgment.”

But it added: “Interpretation of any trends should be treated with caution due to the volatility of single-term absence figures.”

Nearly 330,000 children were recorded as missing school because of unauthorised family holidays in the 2016 autumn term.

That meant the percentage of periods of absence because of an unauthorised holiday increased from 4.2% to 5%.

The effect was particularly marked in primary schools, where more than 9% of absences were recorded as unauthorised holidays.

The increase follows years of declines in both authorised and unauthorised absences, with the number of term-time holidays falling sharply in recent years after the DfE issued new guidance to schools that restricted the ability of headteachers to approve absences.

Previously, heads had been able to grant up to two weeks for family holidays for pupils with good attendance records. But that was revoked in 2013, with new rules meaning that heads can now only authorise absences in “exceptional” cases.

The figures also showed two-thirds of school absences in England were due to illness or medical appointments.

Overall absence rates remain low, although overall absences at state primary and secondary schools increased from 4.1% in autumn 2015 to 4.3% last year.

A small number of pupils account for a high proportion of absences: 11.4% were classified as persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% or more school sessions.

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