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Should You Take Holidays During School Term Time?

As a mum who is planning to take her son out of his state primary school for almost a whole month for a family holiday, I thought it would be wise to look up the rules around holidays during school term time. What does the Department of Education in Queensland say about missing school for family holidays and will I be ‘in trouble’ (or worse fined) for him missing school?

Here is what I discovered about holidays during school term time:

Why must I send my child to school?

Under Queensland law, you must make sure your child of school age (6.5 years – 16 years) is enrolled and attends school all day, every school day unless they have an acceptable reason. Illness, doing work experience or competing in a school sporting event are acceptable reasons for being absent from school. Principals decide if the reason given for your child’s absence is acceptable.

What does the law say about sending a child to school?

Queensland parents may be prosecuted if they do not fulfil their legal obligations in regard to enrolment and attendance of their child at school (or participation in an eligible option). You can see the details of the law here
In Queensland, the department states that holidays during term time should be “actively discouraged”. Any absences of more than 10 consecutive school days require an ‘exemption’.

What is an exemption and why do I need it?

Parents can apply for an exemption from their child’s school when their child cannot attend school for a period of more than 10 consecutive school days.

Situations where an application for an exemption may be made include:

  • Illness
  • Family reasons
  • Cultural or religious reasons

So, if your child is exempted from compulsory schooling for the period then they are ‘excused’ from attending. However, the rules go on to state that the school principal is not responsible for providing an educational program to your child, however they may provide advice on other educational options available (ie the teacher may set work for your child while you are away – but they don’t have to!)

Why do families take holidays during term time?

Annecdotal evidence suggests that the two main reasons for families taking holidays are: cost of term time holidays and extended family living in other states of Australia or overseas. I know this is true for our family. It is incredibly expensive to travel in December/January and the other school holiday dates are not much better! Leaving while the term in still underway can save $$$ off a family holiday and make it possible to remain connected to family that are so far away!

So is ‘family reasons’ a good reason for going on holidays during school term time?

The official word from Department of Education in Queensland is that they ‘encourage you not to schedule holidays during school time’. And further, if your family holiday is over 10 consecutive days and that is during term time there is a set of procedures that you should follow:
  1. let the teacher know as far in advance as possible
  2. let the school know as far in advance as possible
  3. if the absence is for more than 10 school days, you must complete an holiday form (available from the school)
  4. if the holiday is not for 10 school days or more, you are not required by the department to complete a form, however your school may still ask you to do so.

So… I counted up the days that my son will miss school this term… and because we are utilising the September school holidays, it is only 8 school days. So no form for us… this time!

What do you think? Are family holidays more important than school or is school more important than family holidays. Let us know what you think!

This article was published in Issue 26 of our print magazine, February/March 2018.

Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

4 thoughts on “Should You Take Holidays During School Term Time?”

  1. Can a Qld State school request parents not to send their children to school for extra periods after the parents requested that they have to take their children out of school for more than a week due to a family health issue like a Very sick Grandparent who may live in another State

  2. School holiday times are my busy period at work, so asking the boss for time off over that period would be out of the question, my hubby is in the same boat. Should that then mean that my family will never have family holidays together, I don’t think so. Surely having a family spend time together and experiencing and learning about new areas, countries, cultures and people is also education. We’ve always asked the teachers for school work for the kids, whether they are away on holidays or sick for extended time, more often than not the teachers helps us out.

  3. As a person whose father had no choice but to take his annual holidays in term time when we were kids, as an ex-teacher myself, as a wife and mother as well, I know that some people still have no choice but to take annual leave out of school holiday time – employers can’t have everyone off at once so leave is spread throughout the entire year.
    Costs and family are other reasons as stated – as long as teacher and school are notified in advance there should be no other questions – family going on vacation together is more important for long-term welfare that worrying about missing a bit of school.


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