High Court to rule on term-time holiday

Two children playing on a beach

Image caption

Parents argue that term-time holidays are cheaper than ones taken in school holidays

The case of a father who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday is due to be heard by the High Court.

Magistrates had ruled that Jon Platt had no case to answer as, overall, his daughter had attended school regularly.

But Isle of Wight Council has asked the High Court to clarify whether a seven-day absence amounts to a child failing to attend regularly.

Campaigners say the case could redefine the way the law is applied in England.

Since 2013, tougher government regulations have meant head teachers can only grant leave of absence to pupils during term-time in “exceptional circumstances”.

Term-time holiday: What are the rules?

According to local authority data, almost 64,000 fines were issued for unauthorised absences between September 2013 and August 2014.

Many parents complain that the cost of going away in the school holidays can be four times as much as during term-time – but the government says the rules are needed because missing lessons can harm pupils’ chances of getting good qualifications.

Florida holiday

Mr Platt, 44, took his daughter to Disney World in Florida in April 2015

Her school, on the Isle of Wight, had refused permission for the trip but he took her anyway and she missed seven days of lessons.

Mr Platt was issued with a £60 fixed penalty fine.

After he missed the payment deadline, the council doubled the fine to £120 which he also refused to pay.

Image caption

Jon Platt took his daughter out of school for a trip to Florida last year

Isle of Wight Council then prosecuted him for failing to ensure that his daughter attended school regularly, contrary to section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Mr Platt successfully argued there was no case to answer as the prosecution had failed to show that the child did not attend regularly.

Even with this and other absences, Mr Platt maintains her attendance remained above 90%, the threshold for persistent truancy defined by the Department for Education.

Image copyright
Christopher Furlong

Image caption

The government says regularly missing lessons can harm pupils’ chances of getting good qualifications

The magistrates heard that the girl had also been removed from school earlier in the year for an unauthorised holiday by her mother, from whom Mr Platt is divorced, so her attendance record for the year was only just above 90%.

However, the February absence was not part of the council’s case against Mr Platt.

At the magistrates’ court, Mr Platt argued that it was not a crime to remove a child from school for a holiday.

The question was whether the child had failed to attend regularly and the act does not define “regularly”.

‘Pivotal’

The magistrates asked the High Court: “Did we err in law in taking into account attendance outside of the offence dates… as particularised in the summons when determining the percentage attendance of the child?”

Mr Platt has crowdfunded £25,000 to cover legal costs.

Craig Langman, chairman of the Parents Want a Say campaign against the term-time holiday ban in England, called the court case “a pivotal moment”.

“We are backing Jon Platt all the way. It’s time we bring discretion and common sense back into the education system. This nonsense has been going on for two years too long.”

High Court to rule on term-time holiday

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *