Taking Holidays During the School Term : Supreme Court Ruling
With family holidays increasing in price, in some cases by 50%, in the months between between June and August, it was not surprising that lots of parents across England watched eagerly as the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling on term-time holiday fines today. The case of Jon Platt, the father who was fighting a legal battle against his local authority for issuing him with a penalty after taking his daughter to Disney World during school term-time. The Supreme Court have issued their judgement this morning where the father lost a landmark legal battle at the UK’s highest court over.
What are the issues here
- Mr Platt, took his daughter on a trip to Florida in April 2015 without the school’s permission and was issued with a £120 fine.
- Mr Platt refused to pay the fine and consequently was prosecuted by Isle of Wight Council.
- Mr Platt fought the case in the magistrates on the basis that his daughter attended school ‘regularly’ therefore the fine should not have been issued. The Magistrates ruled in his favour, that there was no case to answer.
- The Local authority then took the case to the High Court, who again ruled in favour of Mr Platt. The Local Authority then took the case to the Supreme Court to gain further guidance.
What was the judgement
The five judges were all unanimous in their decision and held that the penalty notice had been properly issued and that unless there was a reasonable cause for the absence, Mr Platt could have expected to face a fine for his daughter’s absence from school. The ruling also rejected Mr Platt’s argument for challenging the fine which focused on his daughter attending school “regularly”, with over 90% attendance despite missing a week of school for a holiday.
The judges in their rulings have said Mr Platt “will be guilty of the offence unless he can establish one of the statutory exceptions, which include sickness and religious observance, adding ‘but the eventual outcome of the case will be a matter for the magistrates to decide’.
A representative from the Education Authority commented following the ruling that: “As before, head teachers have the ability to decide when exceptional circumstances allow for a child to be absent but today’s ruling removes the uncertainty for schools and local authorities that was created by the previous judgement.”
What does this mean for parents?
In simple terms, parents who take their children out of school on holiday, even if their child has regular attendance, can be prosecuted if they do not receive permission from the Head Teacher. Head Teachers can authorise absences for leaves relating to sickness or religious events, but any unauthorised leave can lead to the parents facing prosecution and facing a Penalty Fine.
Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, emphasised that the case did not stipulate the exact rules around absence, but left the matter to the “appropriate authorities”. The court found “regularly” must mean in accordance with the rules set by the school or the “appropriate authorities” such as a council. Following the decision, if a headteacher now registers a pupil as having an unauthorised absence, a parent will no longer be able to argue that their child’s attendance record had been regular enough to avoid a fine.
Further guidance is due to be issued to Local authorities but it is likely that those taking their children out of school during the school term will again face penalties for their absence.
Have you been issued with a Penalty notice? what are your thoughts on this judgement?