Posted by familylaw on 11th April 2017

The Supreme Court has delivered a firm line with parents on term time holidays. Last week, John Platt lost his battle against Isle of Wight Council when the Supreme Court upheld the ban on parents taking their children out of school for ‘term time holidays’.

In April 2015, John Platt took his daughter out of school causing her to incur seven unauthorised absences.  Even with the seven days taken into consideration, his daughter still maintained an attendance of 92.3%.  Despite this, Isle of Wight Council still imposed on Mr Platt a fine of £60. Mr Platt was initially successful in defending this fine.

However, Isle of Wight Council appealed this decision which was heard in January 2017 by the Supreme Court.  It was for the Supreme Court to consider the interpretation of “regular attendance”.  It was Mr Platt’s case that a ‘once in a lifetime holiday’ did not affect his daughter’s attendance to such an extent that she would be deemed to not be in regular attendance of her school.

The Supreme Court unanimously held that regular attendance would be interpreted as “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school”.  Lady Hale in delivering the only judgment said, “Unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education of the individual child but also on the work of other pupils.”

This view is supported by the Department of Education, who are meeting the Council’s legal costs in appealing the decision.  A spokesman for the Department of Education has commented; “We are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position: that no child should be taken out of school without good reason…the evidence shows every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances”.

The new guidelines on term time holidays came into force in 2013 and under these rules, parents could be fined up to £120 for any unauthorised absence.  However, the fining system for term time holidays is inconsistent across England and Wales, and it is important to remember that each council will have their own specific policy on “term time holiday fines”.

This decision means that term time holiday is no longer a choice for parents, unless taken in accordance with the rules of the school.  However, this case will also focus criticism on holiday providers who increase their price excessively during the school breaks, which leaves parents in the unfortunate situation of balancing the need of their children’s schooling and absorbing the extortionate and unjustified price increase imposed by the holiday industry.

If you have any questions about this article or would like to discuss further, please contact the Family Law Company in Plymouth on 01752 674999 or  Exeter on 01392 421777.

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