Education & Family

Council to challenge term-time holiday decision

Jon Platt outside the High Court Image copyright PA
Image caption The High Court ruled Jon Platt did not have to pay a £120 fine in May

A court decision not to fine a father who took his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday is set to be challenged.

The High Court ruled in May that Jon Platt did not have to pay a £120 fine to Isle of Wight Council after he took his daughter to Florida in term-time.

It ruled that Mr Platt had no case to answer as, overall, his daughter had attended school regularly.

But councillors have confirmed they will challenge the High Court decision.

Critics had argued the High Court's decision meant there would be confusion around the rules on taking children out of English schools during term-time.

'National importance'

Isle of Wight Council, which is having its legal fees paid for by the Department for Education, said it had submitted papers applying for permission to appeal against the decision.

The council said it was acting after a formal request from schools minister Nick Gibb.

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Media captionJon Platt: "Is there really 100,000 parents who are so criminally incompetent that it warrants dragging them to court?"

Council leader Jonathan Bacon made clear they would not have gone ahead with the appeal had government not underwritten it.

He said: "Our initial response was not to expend further Isle of Wight Council money on pursuing an appeal.

"However, as a result of the formal request from the minister, the local and national importance of this issue and the DfE's commitment to cover all the costs of the appeal and contribute to the council's previous costs, we have decided to lodge an appeal in order to resolve the issue for all."

The government had said it would look to change the law following the High Court ruling in May.

Term-time holiday: What are the rules?


Analysis

Image caption Parents argue that term-time holidays are cheaper than ones taken in school holidays

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins

Councillors tell me it's chaos.

The rules say parents in England can only take their children out of school in exceptional circumstances.

But the High Court backed a father who refused to pay a fine for doing just that.

It means many councils don't know whether they can enforce the rule or not.

Ministers said they would look to change the law, but are fighting this in the courts.

That will take months.

Clarity could be a long way off.


Since 2013, tougher government regulations have meant head teachers can only grant leave of absence to pupils in schools in England during term time in "exceptional circumstances".

Isle of Wight Council had asked the High Court to clarify whether a seven-day absence amounted to a child failing to attend regularly after magistrates ruled Platt did not have to pay the council fine.

But Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council's challenge, ruling the magistrates were entitled to take into account the "wider picture" of the child's attendance record outside of the dates she was absent during the holiday.

According to local authority data, almost 64,000 fines were imposed for unauthorised absences between September 2013 and August 2014.

Many parents complain that the cost of going away in the school holidays can be four times as much as during term time - but the government says there is evidence "that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chance of gaining good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances".

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