UK

Term-time holiday outlook - what might change?

Fairground at night Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The ruling has thrown the law on term-time holidays into disarray

Disappointed they may be at the High Court ruling in the Jon Platt term-time holiday case but ministers say they will now look to change the legislation.

However, they maintain the policy to reduce school absence is "clear and correct" and they also plan to strengthen the statutory guidance on the issue to schools and local authorities.

It was changes to the statutory guidance which tightened up the regulations in 2013, limiting head teachers on whether they could authorise holiday in term-time and opening the way to the mass fining of parents.

The Jon Platt case hinged on the definition of what constitutes "regular" school attendance but although the judges rejected the definition put forward by the government, it did not determine an alternative.

According to Isle of Wight Council, the ruling has created "massive uncertainty".

Council leader Jonathan Bacon said it could imply that parents can take children out of school on holiday for up to three weeks each year and that would have a detrimental effect on their education.

He said the government should urgently consider creating clear legislation.

'Freedom'

But Julie Robertson at Simpson Millar solicitors welcomed the decision, saying it would give parents the freedom "to continue to take their children out of school during term-time provided that they secure regular attendance on the whole".

"It is a redefinition of how the law regarding non-attendance at school is applied and that's a good thing," she said. "It is simply impossible to provide a percentage figure for which level of attendance is considered regular.

Image caption Families with unconventional work commitments often struggle to take holidays together, says the Local Government Association

"Prosecuting parents does not in any way help children to learn," added Ms Robertson.

And Daniel Jackson, education specialist at Slater and Gordon, said Mr Platt had gained a lot of support with the prominent publicity of his case and the fact that he had won would give people being prosecuted "a stronger argument now".

He said that the relevant section of the Education Act mentioned the word "regularly" countless times without defining exactly what it meant.

"I think re-legislation could be something that is worth looking into," said Mr Jackson.

Modern life

For the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales education is of the "utmost seriousness".

But, said a spokesman, the current system "does not always favour families, especially those that are struggling to meet the demands of modern life and have unconventional work commitments".

"It shouldn't be that a tragedy has to befall a family for a child to get leave during term-time.

"There are many more joyous and positive occasions in life when consideration should be given to granting leave requests, such as a wedding or perhaps a sporting event involving a family member."

"These can have social and emotional benefits which are of lasting value and support to young people. And there are just times when a family should be able to come together to celebrate without worrying about prosecution or being fined.

"We want to work with the government to find a sensible solution whereby every family has the option to spend time together."

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