Term-time Holiday Dad Loses Court Battle
Term-time holiday dad loses court battle
A father has lost his legal challenge against a fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday.
The Supreme Court has ruled against Jon Platt, who had won earlier legal battles against a £120 fine after a week's term time trip to Disney World.
The judges ruled that regular attendance in school had to be in keeping with rules of the school.
The government welcomed the choice that "no child should be taken out of school without excellent reason".
In her judgment Lady Hale said that if parents were able to withdraw children whenever they wanted there would be an unacceptably "disruptive effect" on lessons.
The ruling, which upheld the appeal by the Isle of Wight assembly against earlier decisions in favour of Mr Platt, means that the case will be returned to the magistrates court.
The Supreme Court found that the penalty notice had been properly issued and that unless there was a reasonable cause for the absence – such as illness – he may possibly have expected to face a fine.
The ruling rejects Mr Platt's argument that despite missing a week of school for a holiday, his daughter had regularly attended school over the course of the year, with an attendance rate of over 92%.
The judges did not acknowledge this interpretation – and said that parents would have to comply with the rules set by schools and education authorities.
The row centred on a week's holiday to Disney World in Florida two years ago, which was taken without the head teacher's permission.
Mr Platt was fined £60 which with non-payment was increased to £120 – after which he faced prosecution for failing to ensure his daughter's regular attendance at school.
But his defence was that a week's absence in term-time should not be seen in isolation – and that when it was considered in the context of his daughter's overall attendance of over 92%, she may possibly not be said to have regularly missed school.
The case has raised questions of parents' civil rights and responsibilities.
It also prompted a debate about higher travel costs all through school holidays – with complaints from parents about price hikes.
It comes as a survey shows rising numbers of parents being prosecuted after their children missed school.
A Press Association survey found there were nearly 20,000 prosecutions in 2015, up more than 20% on the previous year, leading to more than 11,000 fines and in eight cases, jail sentences.
Truancy prosecutions in England in 2015
- Proceeded against: 19,920 (16,430 in 2014)
- Found guilty: 14,890 (12,479 in 2014)
- Fined: 11,493, average fine £176. (9,214, average fine £172 in 2014)
- Immediate custody: 8 (18 in 2014)
- Suspended sentence: 111 (103 in 2014)
- Convergence sentence: 553 (488 in 2014)
- Conditional discharge: 2,280 (2,371 in 2014)
- Absolute discharge: 306 (167 in 2014)
When this was place to appeal, the High Court usual that magistrates had been entitled to consider school attendance outside of the week of the term-time absence.
The Department for Education, which has been trying to reduce truancy and improve attendance, has supported the Isle of Wight assembly in challenging the rulings.
And when the case was heard at the Supreme Court earlier this year, the local authority argued that an unauthorised absence "for even a single day, or even half a day" may possibly be unlawful.
But Mr Platt's representatives argued that it was unacceptable to interpret the rules in a way that would criminalise so many parents.
Ministers argue that allowing parents to take children out of school in term-time is disruptive to their learning and caused problems for teachers and the rest of the class when pupils returned and had to be helped to catch up.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Our position remains that children should not be taken out of school without excellent reason.
"That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence."
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