Are you worried about school fines for holidays? Taking your kids away during term time could be a maximum £160 fine per parent

Plus how some parents are finding themselves prosecuted or with custodial sentences for unauthorised absences

School children playing in a school playground
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fines for taking children out of school aren’t new, but the government are cracking down on unauthorised absences by increasing the cost of penalties. New legislation could also see parents prosecuted or sent to prison. 

When fines for unauthorised school absences were introduced in 2013, the aim was to reduce non-attendance. Penalties started at £60 but from August 2024, this figure will rise to £80 if paid within 21 days, or £160 if paid within 28 days, with news of some parents receiving fines, prosecuted and imprisoned for unauthorised school absences.

However, when school holidays see the cost of a break rising - sometimes triple the original price -many families are inevitably priced out of a holiday. Parents have come out in droves to express why the latest government scheme to increase school attendance has angered them. "The fines are not inclusive," mum-of-one, Louise tells us. "It's not always taking a holiday that means children are absent from school, some SEN children, like mine, struggle with school anxiety and are often late. And parents of struggling children can be issued with the same penalties as those absent for being on a family break."

Often, this perpetual lateness or absence isn't school refusal, it's EBSA -  Emotional Based School Avoidance. Such instances require support, and not fines or other threats. The subject of fines for school absence is something that Suzie Hayman from the charity Family Lives is concerned about. She told GoodToknow: "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 learn everything you need about fines for taking children out of school.  

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

Fines are at the discretion of your local authority, as they issue fines to parents, and this process can vary between councils - there are currently calls for more cohesion between local authorities who are not following uniform policies. However, in general, you may risk paying a fine if you take your child or children out of school without asking for permission first.

Mum-of-one, Jess tells us; "Because of Covid, my four-year-old hadn't met my family in Australia, so in her first year of primary we took her out for two weeks after the October half term. I wrote an email to the school detailing the reasons and they were very understanding and even shared a 'holiday journal' for her to colour in while she was away."

The main reasons you might receive a fine;

  1. Taking kids out of school in term time for more than 10 sessions
  2. Your child is late 10 times in one term (not necessarily consecutively)
  3. If your child is excluded from school but seen in public during school hours - and this is reported
  4. If your child has more than five days of unauthorised absence.

Are school fines £60 per day or per week?

The fine is not set per day or per week, it is one payment per child per parent if your child falls under one of the four bullet points mentioned above. Currently, one or both parents can be fined - per child - £60, which rises to £120 each if not paid within 21 days.

From August 2024, rising to £80 if paid within 21 days, or £160 if paid within 28 days - this is the first increase since fines were introduced. If repeated fines are given, a parent receiving a second fine for the same child within any three-year period, will automatically be charged the higher rate of £160. Check your local council rules.

three school children in school corridor and wearing school uniform

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fines per parent are set to be capped at two fines within any three-year period. If this limit is reached, caregivers could be issued a parenting order or prosecuted. If prosecution occurs, the subsequent fine could cost up 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.

Money raised from fines is used by local authorities to cover the costs of administering them, and to fund attendance support for those struggling. Any extra money should be passed to the government. 

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, according to the Government

Mum-of-three, Anna tells us; "The relationship between parents and school should really be a strong one, built on understanding and trust. We were transparent that as a family we couldn't afford a holiday during peak times so my children would all be missing three days of school so we could get the cheaper rate, they accepted our letter and nothing more was said or done."

But this isn't always the case, mum-of-two, Bryony tells us that the fines are not unfair and 'not inclusive': "My daughter is a sickly child and is off frequently for different reasons, so while many children get to take the odd days off here and there for family holidays because it's "within the 10 sessions" we don't get the same grace as she's ill so often."

Parents are expected to ensure their child gets a full-time education either at school, or through home education. This must take place between the first school term after their 5th birthday, and the last Friday in June in the school year of their 16th birthday. 

Currently, children can only miss school if they’re too unwell to attend, or advance permission from the school has been obtained. Special permission for a term-time holiday can be granted if an application to the head teacher is made in advance, or there are exceptional circumstances. If the headteacher agrees, they decide how many days your child may take away from school. 

If a school decides your child has been absent without a good reason, local councils and the school can intervene and issue fines. Some councils currently charge per child, with others fining each parent for each child.  

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

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. 

How many unauthorised absences are allowed from school?

Nothing is 'allowed', according to the Children's Commissioner Rachel de Souza who expects an unrealistic 100% attendance. 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. Should this happen, parents can expect the following:

  • A fine/fixed penalty notice will be issued. If unpaid after 28 days, you could face prosecution for your child’s absence.
  • You could be issued an Education Supervision Order. These can be issued by family courts if the council believes you need support getting your child into school but you aren't co-operating. A supervisor is appointed to help you get your child into education, which can be done instead of, or alongside prosecuting you.
  • Prosecution. You will go to court, and could get a fine, a community order face a custodial sentence of up to three months.

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

Yes you could. But, 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 or £80-£160 from August 2024, for each child missing school. This could be for one or both parents, depending on your local authority.

Read on for expert tips on how to make ends meet over school holidays, and things to do with kids that don't break the bank. For free and easy ways to entertain kids, these five activities might be just what you need or for an affordable, family-friendly holiday, check out Eurocamp family holidays - tempted? Five reasons why our deputy editor highly recommends them

Stephanie Lowe
Family Editor

Stephanie Lowe is Family Editor at GoodToKnow 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. Just keeping on top of school emails/fund raisers/non-uniform days/packed lunches is her second full time job.

With contributions from