Friday Bulletin – 29th January 2016
I have received a lot of requests for authorised absence recently. Many of you will know that the education regulations of 2013 removed references to family holidays and extended leave as well as the notional threshold of ten school days of absence. The amendments made it clear that headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist. There is some debate about what ‘exceptional circumstances’ means when deciding whether to grant absence for pupils during term time. These are the guiding principles I use to determine the existence of ‘exceptional circumstances’.
- The decision to authorise absence is at the headteacher’s discretion based on their assessment of the situation. Circumstances vary from school to school and so there can be no absolute rules on this subject.
- Term times are for education. This is the priority. Children and families have 175 days off school to spend time together, including weekends and school holidays. Heads will rightly prioritise attendance. The default school policy should be that absences will not be granted during term time and will only be authorised in exceptional circumstances.
- If an event can reasonably be scheduled outside of term time then it would not be normal to authorise absence.
- Absence during term time for holidays is therefore not considered an exceptional circumstance.
- Absences to visit family members are also not normally granted during term time if they could be scheduled for holiday periods or outside school hours.
- Absence for a bereavement of a close family member is usually considered an exceptional circumstance but for the funeral service only, not extended leave.
- Absences for important religious observances are often taken into account but only for the ceremony and travelling time, not extended leave. This is intended for one off situations rather than regular or recurring events.
- Schools may wish to take the needs of the families of service personnel into account if they are returning from long operational tours that prevent contact during scheduled holiday time.
- Schools have a duty to make reasonable adjustments for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities.
- Families may need time together to recover from trauma or crisis.
- It is acceptable to take a pupil’s previous record of attendance into account when making decisions.
- It is important to note that headteachers can determine the length of the authorised absence as well as whether absence is authorised at all.
I hope this helps to clarify any queries you may have about the authorisation of holidays in term time.
Have a good weekend.
Mrs A Whistler