PARENTS are facing tougher restrictions when it comes to taking children out of school for holidays.
Headteachers across Sunderland and County Durham have been told by the Government that from September they will only be able to grant any leave of absence from school in “exceptional circumstances”.
Families which flout the law could face hefty fines or legal action.
The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 say headteachers can grant a leave of absence for family holidays in special circumstances, but this has now been removed and the Government has made it clear to headteachers they can only sanction leave in exceptional circumstances.
The move has been welcomed by education leaders on Wearside.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and shadow minister for children and families, said: “I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to afford to get away during the school holidays, but children only get one chance at their education, and we need to ensure that they are able to make the most of it.
“It’s been clear for a long time that taking a holiday is not a good enough excuse for a child missing out on up to two weeks of learning, which they will struggle to catch up with, and it’s right that this should be reinforced in these new regulations.”
Coun Robert Oliver, Sunderland’s tory spokesman for education, said: “Families should not be taking children out of school unless it is absolutely essential.
“For medical appointments or a family funeral, then yes, but not for family celebrations and holidays.
“It is just not responsible, children should be in school during term time.”
Parents who take their children out of school without permission will also be given less time to pay £60 penalty notices the local authority has the power to enforce.
Those who fail to ensure their child attends school are liable for a fine. At the moment, it is £60 if they pay within 28 days, or £120 if they pay within 42 days.
From September, they will be given 21 days to pay £60 or £120 within 28 days.
Coun Pat Smith, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, said persistent non-attendance can lead to legal action by the local authority.
She said: “Based on the new guidelines it would be for individual schools to decide if family requests meet the criteria and can be granted.
“It would also be for individual schools to work with families to discuss personal circumstances and parental responsibilities on attendance.”