The Good Law Project sent a letter to Zahawi threatening judicial review unless there was clarification that schools can still allow absence based on medical advice or exceptional reasons.
The emphasis on collective action, and the request for an enforcement push “across the country” is at odds with the earlier, legally correct guidance that schools should consider absence requests “on an individual basis taking into account the specific facts and circumstances, and relevant background context behind the request”. The letter fails to mention that absences can, and in some cases must, be authorised for vulnerable families; indeed it does not acknowledge that vulnerable families exist at all, other than in a clearly inaccurate suggestion that the “physical and mental wellbeing” of the most vulnerable children is invariably best served by their being in school.
One parent, describing herself and her daughter as vulnerable, said they felt “collateral damage” of focusing on “nativities and attendance”. Her daughter’s headteacher cited DfE guidance in a recent letter threatening fines.
The school previously supported her, she said, but was in an “impossible position”. “We’re not school avoiders, but I’m not prepared to risk orphaning my kids.”