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What happens if my child misses school during term time?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Thursday, May 30th, 2024

As the summer holidays approach, families may be thinking about removing their child from school during term time to take them on holiday. It is understandable why so many people consider this; after all, holidays are so much cheaper during term time and what harm will a few missed school days really do?

In fact, evidence shows that pupils who have good school attendance enjoy better wellbeing and school performance than those who don’t. The government has therefore taken action against this practice by giving local councils the power to fine parents who remove their children from school during term time without an exceptional circumstance such as illness.

Government rules on term time absences

If a child is absent from school without a good reason, parents can be issued with a fine by their local council. As of August this year, that fine will total £80 if paid within 21 days or £160 if paid within 28 days.

Earlier this year, the government introduced a new national framework for schools and local councils, meaning that they all have the same criteria when considering a fine for parents. All schools must consider a fine when a child has missed five or more days of school for unauthorised reasons.

Any parents who receive a second fine within a three-year period will automatically be charged £160. Fines are capped at two per parent within any three-year period, after which other actions such as a parenting order or prosecution may be considered.

Families in difficult circumstances

The government recognises that some families face complex barriers when it comes to school attendance, for example, those whose children have long-term medical or mental health conditions or special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

At Attwaters Jameson Hill, our Family Law team understands that it can also be difficult for separated parents to ensure their children’s attendance at school. In this case, the struggle to co-parent effectively can lead to children taking a lot of time off school.

In these circumstances, schools and local authorities are encouraged to provide support to parents and children to help improve attendance.

How we can help

If you are a single parent or coparenting with an ex-partner or spouse, it is vital to ensure that your child’s school attendance doesn’t suffer.

Our Family Law team can ensure that you have a Child Arrangements Order or parenting plan in place to help your child maintain a consistent routine. A proper plan will also help you keep tabs on any holidays abroad or term-time absences from school, so that you can keep an eye out and ensure all time off is authorised.

As difficult as it may be to communicate with your ex following your separation or divorce, it is important that you both consent to any arrangements before they are made and that you make each other aware of any potential reason as to why your child will not be going to school. For example, if your child is unwell and one parent has kept them off school, it is their responsibility to inform the other parent.

If you are struggling with your co-parenting responsibilities or are subject to an Educational Supervision Order from the Court, then our empathetic Family Law team at Attwaters Jameson Hill can help. Please contact us today to find out how we can support you through this difficult time.

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