New guidance for situations in which pupils in England can be given time off during term-time have been drawn up.

There has been a rise in fines for unauthorised absences following a crackdown.

But now new guidelines have been drafted by head teachers union NAHT, with funerals, weddings and religious events being deemed as acceptable “exceptional circumstances”. Cheaper holidays will not be “a good enough reason”.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the union, wrote a piece in the Sunday Times in which he said the current system had caused confusion among head teachers.

He said the new guidance would also permit time off for children to see parents returning from duty with the armed forces.

Until September last year, head teachers in England could grant up to 10 days leave a year for family holidays in special circumstances. However, heads can now grant absence outside school holidays in exceptional circumstances.

Hobby said: “The trouble is, we have no consistent definition of an exceptional circumstance. This has led to confusion and a sense of unfairness. Two-thirds of the heads we surveyed found this guidance problematic.”

He said the new guide would help heads to identify when it is appropriate to authorise absences.

There have been 60,000 fines handed out to parents for removing children without permission, not all were for holidays. The penalty fine is £60 per child which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

Fines for parents who defy heads and take children out of school without approval were raised from £50 to £60. If parents refuse to pay, local authorities can prosecute, with a maximum fine of £2,500 or three months in jail.