A father who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday, has today won his case at the High Court. The court's decision is likely to redefine the way the law is applied in England.
When the case went before Isle of Wight magistrates, it was found that Jon Platt had no case to answer. Mr Platt argued that his daughter had maintained an attendance record of above 90%, the Department of Education's threshold for persistent truancy. The decision came down to the fact that, although the seven-day absence had been unauthorised, there was no evidence that his daughter had failed to attend school 'regularly' contrary to section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996.
Isle of Wight Council subsequently asked the High Court to clarify whether a seven-day absence amounts to a child failing to attend regularly. A pivotal question was whether the magistrates erred in taking into account attendance outside of the offence dates as particularised in the summons when determining the percentage attendance of the child.
The two High Court judges ruled 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.
Government regulations, brought in in 2013, only allow head teachers to grant leave of absence to pupils during term time in 'exceptional circumstances'. Nationally, almost 64,000 fines were issued for unauthorised absences between September 2013 and August 2014.
Taking children out of school for family holidays can be attractive to parents, with estimates that the cost of a family holiday increases fourfold during school holiday periods. However, the Government has previously insisted that tough rules are needed because missing lessons can harm pupils' chances of obtaining good qualifications.
Parents and campaign groups now await an official response from the Department of Education.
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