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Is it legal to take my child out of school?

As part of our Insights series, Is it legal to… we explore a common question for many parents, about when and for what reasons they can take their child out of school.

When can I take my child out of school?

If your child is at an English state school, you can take your child out of school for the following reasons other than illness, (as long as you have the school’s permission):

  • Visting close, very ill family members;
  • Attending a close family member’s funeral;
  • Armed forces family member returning from operation;
  • Religious observance; and,
  • Specific travel complications

All non-attendance without permission or any other reason, will be classed as an unauthorised absence.

What if I want to go on holiday during term time?

Despite what most people believe, a school may provide you with permission to take your child out of school during term time if the head teacher has given permission for ‘exceptional circumstances’ – this is entirely at the head teacher’s discretion. However, if you decide to take your child on holiday without the school’s permission, this could lead to a fine and other legal action.

What legal action can I face?

If your child regularly fails to attend and/or you do not cooperate with the school and local authority, you could face a range of orders. Additionally, you may also face the following legal action:

Fine – Your local council can give each parent a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if you do not pay within 21 days. If you do not pay the fine after 28 days, you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school.

Prosecution – Under s444 of the Education Act 1996, you could receive a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a maximum 3 month prison sentence (detailed in s444(3)). The court also gives you a Parenting Order.

But, what if my child is struggling at school?

You will not be prosecuted or fined if you provide evidence to the local authority that your child is receiving their education elsewhere (i.e. registered at a new school or being home-schooled); or, your child has specific educational needs which the school authorise as an absence.

It is always best to work closely with your school and local council to avoid prosecution.

This article was produced on the 18th October 2023 for information purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as specific legal advice.