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Exceptional Circumstances Leave of Absence Guidelines

These guidelines, and the application form for a leave of absence request, can be downloaded as a Word document here.

At Black Horse Hill Junior School we want all of our pupils in school for as much time as possible to maximise their learning and curriculum opportunities. We strongly discourage term time breaks and holidays as we ask parents not to request them unless they are truly exceptional circumstances.

The Government has made it clear that parents do not have an automatic right to withdraw their child/children from school during term time.
The Government has made it clear that Head teachers no longer have the discretion to authorise term time absence unless it is due to exceptional circumstances.
Taking a pupil out of school during term time disrupts their learning and it may cause them to fall behind in their learning.
If the absence is not authorised and the time is taken anyway, the case may be referred to our Educational Welfare Officer who may issue a Penalty Notice to each parent for each child taken out of school.


It is a legal requirement for children to attend school. At Black Horse Hill Junior School we place a great importance on attendance and punctuality. This is an essential value of our school community and ethos. From 1st September 2013 legislation prohibits any school from authorising leave of absence except in exceptional circumstances. Amendments have been made to the 2006 regulations in Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013. These amendments, as described below, came into force on 1st September 2013.

“Amendments to the 2006 regulations remove references to family holiday and extended leave as well as the statutory threshold of ten school days. The amendments make clear that head teachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. Head teachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if the leave is granted.”

It is therefore illegal to take children out of school for holidays or other reasons during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances. School are in session for 38 weeks per year, so there are opportunities to take children on holiday /attend other events during the remaining 14 weeks.

The purpose of this policy is to provide guidance on:

  • What might be defined as exceptional circumstances.
  • Procedures for applying for leave of absence.
  • The criteria the school will use in deciding whether to refer any unauthorised absence due to holidays in term time to the Local Authority to issue a Fixed Penalty Fine.

Criteria for Exceptional Circumstances

  • Where it is company/organisational policy for an employee to take leave at a specified time in the year and there is no opportunity for a family holiday in school holidays. This must be supported by documentation from the organisation.
  • Service personnel returning from/scheduled to embark upon a tour of duty abroad.
  • Farming families, whose work patterns mean they cannot holiday during the summer holiday months.
  • To attend religious festivals or services such as the wedding or funeral of an immediate family member.
  • Other compassionate circumstances e.g family illness, family crisis such as  marriage break-up.
  • Where a holiday is recommended as part of a parent or child’s rehabilitation from a medical or emotional issues. Evidence must be provided from a qualified professional such as a doctor.
  • Where there are other factors which the Head teacher may consider exceptional circumstances, this may be referred to the Local Authority for advice.
  • It should be noted that financial consideration are not deemed exceptional circumstances.

Procedure for applying for leave of absence

  • Applications for leave of absence should always be made in advance on the correct form which can be collected from the main office.
  • Leave of absence forms should be completed and returned to the main office for approval.
  • The exceptional circumstances to explain why leave of absence is requested in term time must be clearly stated.
  • The Head teacher will decide whether the leave of absence can be authorised and will contact the parent to inform them of the outcome in writing.
  • Even when there are exceptional circumstances, no holiday requests will be granted during May for Year 6 pupils.

Consequences of taking an Unauthorised Holiday or Leave of Absence

Taking a holiday or leave of absence without authorisation will have an impact on a child’s learning. Parents who choose to take an unauthorised holiday or leave of absence must accept that this will have an adverse effect on their child’s educational achievement. The school will therefore ask the Local Authority to issue a fixed penalty fine where an unauthorised holiday has been taken.

A penalty fine is now £60.00 per parent per child. Amendments to the 2007 regulations will reduce the timescales for paying a penalty notice. Parents must, from 1st September 2013, pay £60.00 within 21 days or £120.00 within 28 days. Fines will be invoiced by the Local Education Authority. The fixed penalty fine is collected and kept by the Local Authority, not the school.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances a fixed penalty fine will be issued:

  • When the Leave of Absence/holiday causes the child’s attendance to fall below 85% in the previous calendar year.
  • When there has been a previous unauthorised holiday/Leave of Absence in the same academic year of 5 or more days.