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High Court Rules Against Local Authority’s Term-time Absence Fine

Court's ruling backs parent who refused to pay £120 fine for taking daughter on term-time family holiday to Disney World

  • High Court Rules Against Local Authority’s Term-time Absence Fine

Magistrates at the High Court have ruled in favour of a father who had refused to pay a £120 unauthorised absence fine imposed by Isle of Wight Council.

The fine was imposed after Jon Platt took his then seven-year-old daughter out of school for seven days, so that she could accompany him on a visit to Disney World, Florida with 17 family members in April 2015. He had applied for his daughter to be granted a leave of absence during term time, since the period in question was the only week that all 17 family members could attend.

His application was turned down by the council, on the grounds that the request did not qualify as an ‘exceptional case’ – the only circumstances in which leave of absences can be granted, even for pupils with otherwise good attendance records, following a 2013 government amendment to the law [PDF].

Platt then proceeded to challenge the fine in a local magistrates court, citing section 444 of Education Act which requires parents to ensure their children attend school ‘regularly’. He won the case the October last year, prompting the council to appeal the decision in the High Court.

Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall today dismissed the appeal, however, ruling that the magistrates’ previous judgement had “Not erred in law”.

Today’s verdict looks set to have major implications on the government’s efforts to enforce school attendance during term times, which have been accompanied by a sharp rise in fines issued to parents in recent years. A DfE spokesman quoted by the BBC said of today’s verdict, “We will look at the judgement in detail but are clear children’s attendance is non-negotiable so we will now look to change the law.”

Also responding to the news was Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who said “Pupils are expected to attend school as close to 100 per cent of the time as possible and they should not miss school to go on holiday. This is because even short periods of attendance can have a detrimental impact on their education, so consistent attendance is absolutely vital…

“The current rules do give discretion to head teachers in exceptional circumstances and whilst there has been some rise in Fixed Penalty Notices in recent years the vast majority of parents are fully onside and recognise the importance of high attendance.”

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