Authorised term-time pupil absence

Legislation passed in 2013 made it clear that leave of absence, during term time, would not be granted, unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ prevail and that head teachers should determine the number of school days a pupil can be away from school if they grant a leave request because of ‘exceptional circumstances’ or in other words, circumstances that are ‘rare, significant, unavoidable and short’.

The following guiding principles have no statutory authority but do provide clarity and consistency.

Guiding principles

  1. 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. Head teachers will rightly prioritise attendance. The default school policy should be that absences will not be granted during term time apart from in ‘exceptional circumstances’
  2. The decision to authorise a pupil’s absence is wholly at the head teacher’s discretion based on their assessment and merits of each request
  3. If an event can be reasonably scheduled outside of term time, then it would not be normal to authorise absence for such an event – holidays are, therefore, not considered ‘exceptional circumstances’
  4. Absences to visit seriously-ill relatives or for bereavement of a close family member are usually considered to amount to ‘exceptional circumstances’, but for the funeral service and travelling time only, not for extended leave
  5. Absences for important religious observances are often considered, but only for the ceremony and travelling time, not for extended leave. This is intended for one-off situations rather than regular or recurring events
  6. 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
  7. Schools must make reasonable adjustments for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities
  8. Families may need time together to recover from a trauma or crisis
  9. It is acceptable to take a pupil’s record of attendance into account when making absence-related decisions
  10. It is important to note that head teachers can determine the length of the authorised absence as well as whether an absence is authorised.

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