A few months ago council leaders called for the ban on children being taken out of school for term-time holidays to be scrapped.
And Wales has taken the advice on board, with their education minister Huw Lewis advising head teachers to use discretion and let children take up to 10 days off a year outside of the usual holiday times.
With regards to England, the current rules, which were introduced by the government last year, do not recognise the complexities of family life, argues the Local Government Association (LGA).
Since September 2014 head teachers have no longer been able to authorise absence from school, except under “exceptional circumstances” – and local authorities are now obliged to impose fines of up to £120 on parents who take their children out of school on an ‘unauthorised absence’.
Although the new ‘blanket ban’ system has improved school attendance figures, many parents have expressed frustration at only being able to take a family holiday outside term time – when travel firms often double their prices.
And others have complained that their requests for term time absence for religious holidays or family weddings and funerals have been turned down because they’re not considered ‘exceptional circumstances’.
The LGA, which represents local authorities, wants the Department of Education to take a more “common sense” approach when considering a parent’s request to take their child out of school.
It’s calling for the “removal of the blanket ban” and for head teachers to be given back the discretion to make decisions about term-time absence requests on a “case-by-case basis”.
“An outright ban is too simplistic, and doesn’t recognise that family life and circumstances aren’t always so black and white.” says Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board.
“We shouldn’t have a system where family holidays are just for the rich, or children aren’t able to take time off in light of family bereavement.”
But head teachers’ leaders counter that there’s no need for change and “exceptional circumstances” should remain “extraordinary and rare”.
“Relaxing the rules would not only undermine the efforts of schools to provide the best possible education for all but potentially open the floodgates,” says Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “It could trigger a situation where there were always some children in every class absent for holidays.”
What do you think of the current system for requesting leave from school for term time holidays? Let us know in the comments below!