Father loses battle over term-time holiday

Jon Platt took his daughter out of school during term time without permission
Jon Platt took his daughter out of school during term time without permission
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A father has lost a landmark legal battle at the UK's highest court over taking his daughter to Disney World during school term-time.

Jon Platt, who took his daughter on a seven-day family trip to Florida in April 2015 without her school's permission, was prosecuted by Isle of Wight Council after he refused to pay a £120 fine.

Local magistrates found there was no case to answer and their decision was upheld by two High Court judges in London, who ruled that Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90 per cent.

They said the magistrates had been entitled to take into account the 'wider picture' of the child's attendance record outside of the dates she was on holiday.

But Isle of Wight Council challenged the ruling and urged the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court decision, saying it raised important issues over what constitutes 'regular attendance' at school.

This morning, five justices at the Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal by education chiefs and ruled in their favour.

The High Court had cleared Mr Platt of failing to ensure his daughter attended school regularly, as required by the Education Act 1996.

The panel of Supreme Court justices, including the court's president Lord Neuberger, declared that Parliament's intention was that the word 'regularly' means 'in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school'.

Mr Platt's case now has to return to the magistrates' court as a result of the decision.

Speaking after the ruling was given, Mr Platt said he was 'not at all surprised' at the judgment.

He said: "I'm pleased that they acknowledged the judgment doesn't go on to say what the school rules should be. Schools need to think very carefully about what these rules should be.

"Some have policies that mean that every day missed is a criminal offence."

He added that schools need to build in some flexibility to 'attenuate the shocking outcome of this case'.

The justices ruled the penalty notice was properly issued to Mr Platt.

They said he 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'.

Announcing the decision of the court, deputy president Lady Hale said: "Unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education of the individual child, but also on the work of other pupils, and of their teachers.

"If one pupil can be taken out whenever it suits the parent, then so can others.

"Different pupils may be taken out at different times, multiplying the disruptive effect."

She added: "Any educational system expects people to keep the rules.

"Not to do so is unfair to those obedient parents who do keep the rules, whatever the cost or inconvenience to themselves."