Posted on 13th May 2016

The High Court today ruled that a father who had taken his child out of school for a holiday had not broken the law.

Mr Platt had been taken to court by Isle of White Council, he had fallen foul of a new initiative designed to encourage parents to not take their children on holiday during term time. The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 altered the 2006 Regulations meaning that parents could only take children out of school if the school considered that the parents had exceptional circumstances to do so. . He had taken his daughter out for a week, against the school’s finding, and had received a penalty notice of £60. He had refused to pay that, and thus the fine doubled to £120, he had refused to pay that fine too and thus the Council prosecuted him under s444 (1) of the Education Act 1986

s444Offence: failure to secure regular attendance at school of registered pupil.

(1)If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.

Mr Platt had argued that the Council had to take into account his daughter’s academic attendance record as a whole, which was over 90%, rather than simply apportioning the 6 days that she had been off, within the half term that the holiday fell. The court at first instance agreed and dismissed the case at half time after a submission of no case to answer.

The Council stated a case to the High Court asking:

Question for the 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?”

The High Court held:

Held: the local authority must prove beyond doubt that a parent has failed to secure regular attendance – taking into account the child’s academic attendance record as a whole.

What this means is that a school cannot look simply at the child’s attendance for the half term in which the holiday falls, it must look at the academic record for the year, and only if a child’s attendance falls below 90% can an offence under s444 be committed.

This is a severe blow for the Government, and is likely to lead to a rash of appeals from parents who feel they may have been wrongly penalised, and also an increase in parents taking their children on holiday. The Government is being asked to look again at the law with arguments from parents saying they are being financially penalised for having to take holidays only during school holiday time, when they can be over twice the price, whilst schools argue that in the era of SATS and league tables children cannot afford to miss schooling for things such as holidays,

Only one thing is certain, this is an argument set to run.

This article was written by No5 Chambers barrister Michelle Heeley.

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