Fines for taking children out of school: what are they now and how much will you pay?

What is the fine for taking your child out of school?

Aerial shot of a school playground with children playing on it illustrating Fines for taking children out of school
(Image credit: Getty / Future)

Fines for taking children out of school aren’t a new thing, but a rules shake up last year meant parents could be forced to pay double the amount for taking their child on holiday during term time.

When fines were initially introduced in 2013, they were intended to reduce term-time absences, and started at £60. This figure can now rise to £120 if unpaid within 21 days. But crippling holiday price spikes when kids break up for summer holidays means that some parents still choose to take their kids away during school, even if it means risking getting fined. 

This is something that Suzie Hayman from the charity Family Lives is concerned about. She told Goodto: "I think slapping a fine on a parent doesn't necessarily get to the root of the problem and doesn't necessarily do anything about it." Read on to find out everything you need to know about fines for taking children out of school.  

When can you take your child out of school? 

There are only a few circumstances where a child is allowed to miss school, such as illness or where the school has given permission because of an exceptional circumstance. 

However, if your child misses school without a good reason, local councils and schools can intervene. In some cases, this might mean that parents receive a fine. Some councils charge this fine per child, while others fine each parent for each child.  

Fines for taking children out of school: what are they for and how much will you pay?

You may risk paying a fine if you take your child or children out of school without permission. It’s up to the local authority to issue fines to parents, and this process can vary between councils.

You could receive a fine for taking kids out of school in term time, being late 10 times in one term, if a child is excluded from school but seen in public in school hours, or if they have more than five days of unauthorised absence.

A fine for a school absence starts at £60, rising to £120 if you don’t pay it within 21 days. As we’ve heard, some councils charge per child, while others charge per parent for each child. 

So a family of four could be looking at a minimum fine of £240 (before legal charges and fees are added). If not paid within 21 days, this could go up to £120 per parent for each child, which could be a potential total of £480 (before legal charges and fees are added). 

If you’re prosecuted and have to go to court because your child hasn’t been attending school, the fine could escalate to £2,500. 

Each council is expected to draw up a Code of Conduct, explaining their process for issuing fines, and publishing it on their website. Find out what the rules are in your area here.

However, it’s common knowledge among parents that some head teachers allow children to be off in term time for holidays, but this varies from school to school. According to the UK Government website, “you have to get permission from the head teacher if you want to take your child out of school during term time.

“You can only do this if:

  • You make an application to the head teacher in advance (as a parent the child normally lives with)
  • There are exceptional circumstances

“It’s up to the head teacher how many days your child can be away from school if leave is granted.” 

Can you get a fine for missing a day of school?

No, you won’t get a fine for missing a day of school - the penalty notices are aimed at parents of children who regularly play truant or have long unauthorised absences. However, these days off will be noted and added up over the term. More than five unauthorised absences could see a fine incurred. 

What if my child needs to miss school?

According to the UK Government website, your child must attend every day that the school is open, unless:  

  • Your child is too ill to attend
  • You have asked in advance and been given permission by the school for them to be absent on a specific day due to exceptional circumstances
  • Your child cannot go to school on a specific day because it is a day set aside for religious reasons
  • Your local authority is responsible for arranging your child’s transport to school and it’s not available or has not been provided yet
  • Your child does not have a permanent address and you are required to travel for work. This exception only applies if your child attends their usual school or another school where you are staying as often as possible. This must be 200 half days or more a year if they are aged six or older

How much is a fine for taking a child out of school?

The current situation is that your local council can give one or both parents a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if not paid within 21 days. If you don’t pay the fine after 21 days you may be prosecuted for your child’s absence from school. Check your local council rules.

How many unauthorised absences are allowed from school?

The Children's Commissioner Rachel de Souza expects 100% attendance and the states more than 15 ‘sick days’ are reported to the council. More than five days of unauthorised absence in one term will also be reported to your local authorities. 

Can I be fined for taking my kids on holiday in term time?

Every school is different. Your head teacher might authorise the leave under ‘exceptional circumstances’ according to But without permission, you will likely incur a charge of £60-£120 for each child missing school. This could be for one or both parents, depending on your local authority.

Looking for more like this? Read our guides to when do kids go back to school after summer?.  

Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodTo covering all things parenting, pregnancy and more. She has over 13 years' experience as a digital journalist with a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to all things family and lifestyle. Stephanie lives in Kent with her husband and son, Ted. With his love of choo-choos, Hey Duggee and finger painting he keeps her on her toes.

With contributions from