Parents are likely to face prosecution for taking children on holiday during term time
If any parent takes their children on holiday during term time without permission from the head teacher, they should be prepared to face prosecution. That is the ruling of the Supreme Court which has now delivered its verdict in a landmark legal battle involving a father who refused to pay a £120 fine after taking his six year old daughter on a week-long break to Disney World.
Mr Jon Platt, a businessman from the Isle of Wight, was prosecuted by his local council after he refused to pay a £120 penalty for taking his daughter on holiday without permission from the school. When the case was first heard by local magistrates they agreed with Mr Platt and decided there was no case to answer. The local authority took its case to the High Court in London but this court upheld the magistrates’ original decision and declared that Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90% for the last academic year. The High Court confirmed that the magistrates were entitled to take into account the wider picture of the child’s attendance record outside of the dates she was absent on the holiday.
The local authority persisted and took the case to the Supreme Court, who on 6 April 2017, rejected the view of the High Court and the magistrates and ruled in favour of the local authority. Reading out the court’s verdict, Lady Hale, Deputy President of the Supreme Court, said: “The Supreme Court unanimously allows the Council’s appeal, declaring that the word ‘regularly’ means ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school.”
As most parents will testify, booking a holiday outside of term time can be a very expensive exercise. The cost of a family holiday can be vastly different and more expensive during the school holidays with costs rising sometimes by up to 400%. Previously parents would ask schools for permission to take their children away during the academic year and such requests were often granted. However in 2013, the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, tightened the rules, imposing fixed-penalty fines of £60 for unauthorised absences, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days. The new rules say that head teachers can only grant leave in “exceptional circumstances”.
Amanda Erskine is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.