We have now received a response from the Government. The good news is that the Education Secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has agreed with our legal analysis, and confirmed that the provision which allows schools to authorise absences in exceptional circumstances – “regulation 7”1 – does apply to Covid-related absences, including children who are vulnerable or live with vulnerable family members.
Crucially, the response makes clear that schools do have discretion to authorise such absences, and the Secretary of State expects them to use it. It says he: “would expect in the first instance that parents would seek to resolve their concerns in dialogue with schools.”
It goes on to say that, where a leave of absence is requested: “schools should, as set out in the Attendance Guidance, consider each application individually, taking into account the specific facts and circumstances and relevant background context behind the request, and their obligations under the 1998 and 2010 Acts.