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Policy on term-time absences revised 16 September 2008

THE Department of Education has revised its policy on the circumstances in which headteachers can authorise term-time absences.

The policy is being strengthened to resolve concerns that growing numbers of pupils are missing out on lessons by taking holidays during term-time.

From this term, headteachers may only authorise absences where exceptional domestic circumstances, such as a family bereavement or trauma, mean it is necessary.

Previously, it was left to headteachers’ discretion as to whether to authorise parents to take pupils out of school for up to 10 days a year to go on holiday.

However, this was leading to a greater than desirable number of pupils taking time off lessons.

Parents could face warnings and may ultimately be subject to court action if their children are repeatedly absent from school without authorisation.

However, it is stressed that holidays in the 2008/2009 school year already authorised by headteachers may be taken.

Head of Legal and Administrative Services John Gill said:

‘The change in policy is a response to the growing number of parents requesting permission to take their children on holiday during term-time. These requests happen all year round. If children miss lessons, even just for a week or two, they risk falling behind and this can have a knock-on effect on their exam results and their whole futures. Having children missing at various times during the term also has an unsettling effect on classes.’

Mr Gill said:

‘We do sympathise with parents who find it is cheaper to take their families away in off-peak periods. However, we would ask parents to respect the fact that headteachers must enforce the revised policy and will not authorise absences other than in the very limited circumstances set down in the policy.’

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