Rise in pupils taking term-time holidays

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More pupils took term-time holidays last year, according to new figures, while the proportion of parents fined for taking their youngsters out of school without permission fell.

Official figures show around one in six youngsters (16.9%) missed at least a half day of lessons during the 2016/17 academic year, compared to 14.7% the year before.

Separate data published by the Department for Education shows the number of penalty notices issued to mothers and fathers for their child’s unauthorised absence dropped by 5.4% between the two academic years.

The majority of fines issued – more than three-quarters (77.5%) – were for unauthorised holidays, the statistics show.

Pupils missing at least half a day of school due to unauthorised family holiday. Infographic from PA Graphics.

It suggests that after this ruling, many mothers and fathers took decisions to take term-time breaks believing it was unlikely they would face action for doing so.

The case was later referred to the Supreme Court, where the father involved, Jon Platt, lost in April last year.

The latest Government figures show the overall unauthorised absence rate – pupils missing lessons for any reason without permission – rose from 1.1% to 1.3% between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

The rate is at its highest level since records began, according to the statistics, which cover state schools in England.

“This increase in unauthorised absence is due to an increase in absence due to family holidays that were not agreed by the school,” Government statisticians said.

Separate figures on penalty notices show there were 149,321 fines handed out in 2016/17, compared with 157,879 the previous year.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Children only get one chance at an education and evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs.

“Therefore we believe that no child should be taken out of school without good reason – and the Supreme Court agrees with us.

“The rules on term-time absences are clear and we have put schools back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”

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