The actual wording of the 1981 Education Act states: 'In pursuance of arrangements made by the governing body of a school, on application made by the parent or other person having charge of the pupil, he may be granted leave of absence from the school to enable him to partake of an annual family holiday or to go away on an annual holiday. Save in exceptional circumstances, a pupil shall not in pursuance of this regulation be granted more than two weeks' leave of absence in any year.'
I have taken this up with the Department for Education, and it has confirmed that it is up to the governors of the school whether they grant leave of absence; it is therefore not allowed for the parent to do this without the governors' permission if the governors have made their views on holiday leave well known in advance.
This, of course, raises the question of what is to be done with a parent who insists on removing a child from school despite a refusal. I did have success with one recalcitrant parent, who was thinking of removing her daughter to Florida for two weeks, when I pointed out that in that case I hoped that she would not mind that her daughter's maths and English teachers would not be here on her return, as I would be recommending to the governors that they, too, would like to take cheap-rate holidays.
It is very difficult to see what can be done with a child whose parents insist on defying the school. Draconians would advocate instant exclusion for a serious breach of rules, and there is no doubt that this would encourager les autres, but it would be very hard for the first sacrificial victim.
I have taken the matter up with the DFE this spring, and have been told that it is, in fact, looking into this problem and appreciates that it is not on for children to opt in and opt out at their parents' will.
Lady Margaret School