The legal battle over whether parents can take children on term-time holidays will reach the Supreme Court today (31 January).
In 2016, Jon Platt won a landmark High Court ruling blocking a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Florida, US, during term-time without a school’s permission.
Two judges declared that Platt was not acting “unlawfully” because his daughter had a good attendance record for the rest of the year.
Isle of Wight Council, the local education authority that took Platt to court, is asking five Supreme Court justices to overturn the High Court judgment. It does so with the Government’s firm backing.
The Supreme Court justices will consider whether or not Platt committed an offence by failing to ensure his daughter “attended school regularly”, as required by section 444(1) of the 1996 Education Act.
Platt argues that current rules mean that parents could be criminalised for keeping sick children off school.
Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “I asked parents whether their child’s illness has been asked as ‘unauthorised absence’ because they cannot produce a GP’s letter, and hundreds responded.”
He said he has been told many schools will demand a doctor’s note if a child is off sick, so if they’re unable to get the note, the absence will be recorded as “unauthorised”.
Platt added: “You can’t drag a parent to court because their child is sick”.
At the time of the High Court ruling in May 2016, Platt argued his daughter’s total attendance was over the 90% threshold contained in the Isle of Wight policy on regular attendance.
He requested permission to take his daughter out of school, but his request was refused by the headteacher. He was issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60. He failed to pay and was sent a further invoice for £120, which he also refused to pay.
When he was prosecuted, magistrates refused to convict him.
At the High Court, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall 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 a seven-day trip to Disney World in Florida in April 2015.
A BBC investigation has since found that 35 English councils have changed their policy on fining in the wake of his High Court victory. A further five are reportedly reviewing their policy, according to PA.
The guidelines surrounding term-time holidays were introduced for schools in September 2013, that allowed head teachers to permit pupils to miss classes in “exceptional circumstances”.