COVID-19 and the law: Can I take my child on holiday during term-time?

Plastic toy bucket and a blue sand rake on the sand

It has been a long and difficult year for most of us, with many considering finally taking a family holiday. With children having returned to school and travel plans frequently changing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, taking children on holiday during term-time may be a consideration for many parents.

The rules concerning term-time holidays changed in 2013, and headteachers may no longer grant holidays of up to 10 days in ‘special circumstances’. Headteachers may now only grant permission for term-time absence in exceptional circumstances. But surely, we are living in exceptional circumstances? Perhaps not. In this article, we look at the rules surrounding children, term-time holidays and the coronavirus pandemic.

What are the current rules around school absence?

From the beginning of the Autumn term 2020, pupil attendance at school will be compulsory, and the usual rules concerning attendance will apply. This means that parents have a legal obligation to ensure their child attends school regularly. The school has a responsibility to record the attendance of pupils and follow up on any absence, and sanctions such as fines may be issued if parents fail their obligations. However, pupils will not be counted as absent where they cannot attend school for reasons related to coronavirus.

Can I take my child out of school during term-time for a holiday?

You may not take your child out of school during term time unless:

You get permission from the school in advance

There are exceptional circumstances that require you to take this holiday—for example, the funeral of a family member, or illness.

Requesting a leave of absence

If you need to request permission for absence, you must do so by making a formal Request for Leave of Absence, a form which will be available from your child’s school. You must also submit evidence that supports the reasons for the absence no later than 21 days before you plan for your child to be absent from school. It will be for the headteacher to determine how long the child may be away from school.

What happens if my Request for Leave of Absence is denied?

If your request is denied, you may not take your child out of school. If you choose to do so, your child’s absence from school will be marked as ‘not authorised’. Where you continue to take your child out of school, or where your child is absent from school for more than the permitted number of days, the headteacher may make a request for you to be issued by a Fixed Penalty Notice by the local authority.

The Fixed Penalty Notice is £60 per parent, per pupil. If you fail to pay the Fixed Penalty Notice within 21 days, this will increase to £120. Where you do not pay within 28 days, you could receive a summons to attend the Magistrates Court.

For more information, you may wish to visit Surrey County Council’s website by clicking here.

If you need any further help in relation to your rights, perhaps following a relationship breakdown, please contact Vanessa directly on, call 01483 887766 or start a live chat today. 

*This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.


Vanessa McMurtrie

Partner, Family

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then...

Vanessa McMurtrie -Partner

Partner, Family

Vanessa McMurtrie

Vanessa trained and then qualified as a solicitor in 1991 with Hart Brown working in the Cobham office's family department for a decade. She then worked for us on a part time consultancy basis while devoting more time to her family. During this period she was instrumental in implementing Hart Brown’s family department’s case management system and later, the quality system that led to the firm’s ISO 9001 accreditation.

In 2005 Vanessa returned to client work and joined Mackrell Turner Garrett where she stayed for ten years, before re-joining Hart Brown in 2015. Vanessa knows Woking and the surrounding area well and enhances the work covered at our Woking office as part of the family team.

Vanessa has been a Resolution member since 1991, committed to resolving disputes in a non-confrontational and constructive way. She has served on the Surrey Resolution committee since 2008. She is a Resolution accredited collaboratively trained lawyer and welcomes the opportunity to help separating couples adopt this process as an alternative to the more traditional options available.

Over the years, Vanessa has gained a wealth of experience in dealing with the legal aspects of personal relationships, not just those coming to an end, but new relationships, too, where a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement is required. She prides herself on being approachable and understanding as she helps her clients go through the legal process.