Father wins High Court ruling on parents taking children on holiday during school terms
The court backed Jon Platt, who refused to pay a fine for taking his daughter to Florida in term-time, paving the way for other parents to do the same
A High Court ruling supporting a dad who took his child on holiday in term time could pave the way for other parents to do the same.
Jon Platt refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Florida.
He said it was the principle rather than the cost as he believed he shouldn’t be criminalised when his six-year-old had regular attendance during the rest of the year.
The issue of the fine, which was originally £60 and then doubled because of his refusal to pay, went before the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court in October last year.
Mr Platt won his case, but the local authority appealed the decision in the High Court – and top judges ruled in the dad’s favour.
On Friday, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council’s challenge, ruling that the magistrates had not “erred in law” when reaching their decision.
Statement from Jon Platt after his landmark win
Speaking before the ruling Mr Platt told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Paying the fine was an acceptance that I had committed a criminal offence, I was so indifferent to my children’s wellbeing that it amounted to a criminal offence.
“That’s just not true – I’m not such an incompetent parent or so indifferent to their wellbeing that I should be criminalised for it.”
He added: “If the law required 100 per cent attendance, if the law said your children must attend every single day in order to get a great education, the law would say that – but it does not.
“We are not arguing on behalf of people whose kids don’t go to school, I’m arguing on behalf of people whose kids go to school every single day and maybe once a year they take them out for five days.
“It does not harm them at all. How do I know? Because my own kids are doing really, really well in school. They never had 100 per cent attendance but they never had less than 93 per cent attendance.”
The ruling comes as another dad’s petition calling for schools to be able to authorise 10 days off surpassed its 100,000 target in just 36 hours this week.
Dave Hedley set it up after being fined for taking his children out of school for five days despite it being the only time they could get away during his wife’s cancer treatment.
He only launched the petition on Monday but less than two days later it had already reached the 100k signature mark he needed for it to be considered for a debate in Parliament.
He said: “I would like to congratulate Mr John Platt on his wonderful High Court victory. This is a fantastic ruling and with the help of my ongoing petition the Government must now listen and act and bring back the 10 day authorised absence. Parents should no longer be receiving these incorrect and unjust school fines. The general public have spoken, the High Court now agrees and the MPs must do their job and represent their constituents”
So can I take my child out of school?
English case law means that judges and magistrates will consider the ruling when they make decisions in future.
But it’s no guarantee you’ll escape a fine if you spirit the kids away to Lanzarote.
Platt argued successfully that he was meeting the rules that his daughter attended school regularly. Not only did she have very high attendance, but she was a top student.
If, for example, your child was struggling with classes, and had missed some days of school, the magistrates might take a different view.
Parents who decide to refuse to pay the fine will be in for an expensive battle – if Platt had lost he would have had thousands of pounds of legal bills to pay.
Holiday rules explained
It’s no secret that trips overseas soar in price during school holidays, tempting some parents to take their children away during the cheaper, term time price bracket.
However, in recent years ministers argued that missing any amount of school is detrimental to a child’s education.
In 2013 the Department of Education overturned guidelines dating back to 2006 that meant head teachers could grant leave of absence of up to 10 days for the purposes of a family holiday in term time in “special circumstances”.
Parents who take their children out of school without permission during term time can incur fines of £60 per pupil, per period of absence – which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.