Pupil term-time absence: what you need to know

Term-time absences can only be granted in 'exceptional circumstances'. Know what factors you need to consider when deciding whether a circumstance is 'exceptional' and making a judgement around how long the pupil needs to be away from school.

Last reviewed on 4 March 2024See updates
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  1. Headteachers can only grant term-time absences in 'exceptional circumstances'
  2. What constitutes an 'exceptional circumstance'?
  3. Decide on the length of the leave of absence 

Headteachers can only grant term-time absences in 'exceptional circumstances'

From time to time you will receive requests for the term-time absence of your pupils. You can only grant a leave of absence during term-time if you consider there to be 'exceptional circumstances' that warrant this. 

Any requests for term-time absence must be made in advance. If the parents didn’t apply for the leave of absence in advance, you must record the absence as unauthorised.

This is set out in the DfE's guidance on working together to improve school attendance.

What constitutes an 'exceptional circumstance'?

You must decide whether an absence request constitutes an 'exceptional circumstance' based on the individual circumstances and the relevant context behind the request.

You'll still need to respond to requests on a case-by-case basis, but you can set out examples of the