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New legislation curbs family ski holidays
Sunday September 15, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

This month new laws have come into force to withdraw the discretion of a headteacher to allow holidays in term time. It could have a significant impact on family ski holidays and some parents have reacted angrily.

In the past headteachers were allowed to give parents leave of absence for the purpose of a family holiday during term time in "special circumstances".

They were allowed to grant up to ten days leave from school per year.

Now changes to the 2006 Pupil Registration Regulations have removed references to family holiday.

The amendments make clear that headteachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.  A holiday is not judged to be in that category.

It means parents will either have to obey the law, claim the illness of their child or risk a £100 fine.

Here at PlanetSKI we have spoken to some tour operators who report some parents are risking the £100 fine as it can save the several times that amount if taking a holiday at peak time.

The parents claim the odd day or two at the end of an academic period does not harm their child's education.

Some family ski tour companies have reacted to the new legislation that came into force on September 1st 2013.

"Parents who choose to travel with Esprit out of school holidays certainly do not take their children's education lightly but they are also well tuned to their child's academic year, and know when missing a particular week will have no lasting effect, particularly if they have discussed and arranged holiday homework with teachers," said Moira Clarke from the specialist company, Esprit Ski.

"Equally importantly, many parents see their child's education as including far more than just the academic syllabus, and many feel strongly that sports in general have been woefully neglected and indeed undermined by various government changes over recent years," she added.

"This more rounded view allows the very real physical, confidence-building and educational benefits of a week in the mountains, learning new skills that will last the child a lifetime, to be taken into account."

The web site Mumsnet has campaigned against ruling and has started a petition.

It has had this response from the government.

"It is a Government priority that children of compulsory school age and who are registered at school attend school regularly. School absence should be reduced to a minimum. This is because there is clear evidence that any absence from school can and does impact on children's education attainment.

The law places a duty on parents of every school-registered child of compulsory school age to secure their regular attendance at school. The courts have interpreted regular attendance to mean a pupil attending school every day it is open for education. Failure of a parent to ensure their child attends school regularly may constitute an offence, which can lead to a parent being fined or prosecuted.

The previous law on leave of absence allowed schools to authorise up to ten days leave for the purpose of family holiday in special circumstances if a parent applied in advance. This was interpreted by some schools and parents to mean that parents had an entitlement to take their children on an annual two week family holiday during term time. This was a misconception; the law was not intended to create any perception of an entitlement. The Government has now changed the law to remove any ambiguity.

Head teachers will still have the power to authorise leave of absence but only in exceptional circumstances. If a head teacher grants leave, it will be for them to determine the length of time the child can be away from school. There are 190 days in a school year and enough opportunities during school breaks for parents to plan their holidays. The Government does not plan to revert back to the previous legislation."

More details on the legislation can be seen here and here

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