Father loses Supreme Court battle over taking daughter on holiday during term time


A father has lost a landmark battle at the UK’s highest court over taking his daughter out of school on an unauthorised holiday during term time.

Jon Platt has said he was “not at all surprised” at the Supreme Court decision, which comes after a legal dispute between education chiefs and Mr Platt, who took his daughter on on a seven-day trip to Disney World in Florida in 2015 without her headteacher’s permission.

Father Jon Platt arrives at the Supreme Court (PA Images)

Five judges unanimously allowed an appeal by education chiefs against an earlier ruling that Mr Platt had not broken the law.

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He was prosecuted by the Isle of Wight Council after refusing to pay an initial £60 fine.

After local magistrates found there was no case to answer, the authority then took its case to the High Court in London.

There two judges upheld the magistrates’ decision and declared that Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall school attendance record of over 90%.

Jon Platt was refused permission to take his daughter on holiday during term-time (PA Images)

They said the magistrates were entitled to take into account the “wider picture” of the child’s attendance record outside of the dates she was absent on the holiday.

The decision caused a surge in term-time bookings all over England.

The council then asked the Supreme Court justices, including the court’s president Lord Neuberger, to overturn the High Court decision, saying it raises important issues over what constitutes ”regular attendance” at school.

The High Court ruling in May last year cleared Mr Platt of failing to ensure his daughter attended school regularly, as required by section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996.

Mr Platt’s request for permission to take his daughter out of school was refused by her headteacher.

After the holiday he was issued with a fixed penalty notice, but he did not pay the £60 by the initial deadline, and was sent a further invoice for £120, which he also did not pay.

At a Supreme Court hearing in January, the local authority, backed by the Education Secretary, argued that a child’s unauthorised absence from school ”for even a single day, or even half a day” can amount to a criminal offence.

But a QC for Mr Platt described the submission as a new and radical interpretation of the law which was absurd and would ”criminalise parents on an unprecedented scale”.

 

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