Nearly one in 10 pupils took term-time holidays in last year

New figures show a rise in the proportion of youngsters missing lessons for family trips
New figures show a rise in the proportion of youngsters missing lessons for family trips

Almost one in 10 pupils in England took time off school for term-time holidays last year.

New figures show a rise in the proportion of youngsters missing lessons for family trips, compared to the year before.

In total, 9.4% of primary and secondary school children missed at least half a day of schooling for this reason during the autumn and spring terms of the 2016/17 academic year, according to official statistics.

This is up from 7.6% for the same two terms the year before.

The latest figures for 2016/17 cover the period after a father won a high-profile High Court case in May 2016 over taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission.

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.

The latest figures show that overall, the proportion of all half days missed due to term-time family holidays that have not been approved by the school has risen from 0.2% in 2015/16 to 0.3% in 2016/16.

The authorised holidays rate remains static at 0.1%.

Youngsters are skipping school without permission more often in general, the figures show.

The overall unauthorised absence rate in England's primary and secondary schools - children missing lessons for any reason - has risen to 1.1%, from 0.9% the previous year.

"This is due to increased levels of unauthorised family holiday and other unauthorised absence," Government statisticians said.

Justine Roberts, founder of parenting website Mumsnet, said: "Missing lots of school has a negative impact on children's learning, and is disruptive for teachers as well.

"But discussions on Mumsnet show that parents are being denied permission even for very short trips with genuine educational value, for off-season holidays for children with special needs, or for really significant family events.

"Parents of course need to behave responsibly and think about the needs of the whole school community, but Mumsnet users would like to see headteachers being able to exercise discretion over absences without being penalised in subsequent Ofsted reports."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said it is their position that children should not be taken out of school without good reason.

"That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence," she said.

"The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting impact on their life chances."

Mr Platt lost a landmark legal battle at the UK's highest court in April over taking his daughter to Disney World during school time.

The case, which was closely watched by parents across the country, was taken to the Supreme Court by education chiefs after High Court judges, in May 2016, backed a decision by local magistrates on the Isle of Wight that Mr Platt had no case to answer over the unauthorised seven-day family trip in April 2015.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the case was referred back to Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court, where Mr Platt was convicted of failing to secure his daughter's regular attendance at school, given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.

Parents can be fined £60 if their child misses school without permission, rising to £120 if the penalty is not paid within 21 days. Those that fail to pay can face prosecution.