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Legal battle paves the way for cheaper school holidays

Author: Gail Harris

Cheaper term-time holidays are on the cards for parents thanks to the legal battle of a father who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter out of school for a family holiday.

Jon Platt was originally hit with a £60 fine after he took his daughter to Disney World in Florida in April 2015, despite the schools refusal to grant permission.

When he missed the payment deadline the council doubled the fine to £120 – which he also refused to pay. He was then prosecuted for failing to make sure that his child attended school “regularly”.

It was the word “regularly” that gave Mr Platt grounds to challenge the decision. Even with other absences, his daughter’s attendance was above the threshold for truancy, set by the Department of Education at 90%.

Magistrates agreed with Mr Platt, saying he had no case to answer as the council had failed to show that the child did not attend regularly.

The council disputed this decision and turned to the High Court for a ruling. Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the case saying that the Magistrates had not “erred in law” and they were entitled to take into account the child’s attendance record outside the dates of the Florida holiday.

Commenting after the case, Mr Platt, said: “I am obviously hugely relieved. I know there was an awful lot riding on this. Not just for me but for hundreds of other parents.”

The government has said it will now look at a change in the law.

Doncaster parents have been the worst hit in the Yorkshire and Humber region, with over 3,500 fines being handed out during the academic year 2014/15. The number of fines dished out ranged from 2 to 97 per school.

Tour operators regularly come under fire for the way that holiday prices shoot up during school holiday periods, sometimes by as much as 300%.

Education solicitor, Angela Sandhal, commenting on the case said:  “I do not believe that Parliament ever envisaged, when it created the offence of non-school attendance, that parents would be prosecuted in low level cases of this nature. However, it remains to be seen whether the High Court’s decision will now lead to schools and local authorities to amend any policies they may have of issuing fines and prosecutions in every single case despite the circumstances. In the meantime, parents currently facing a fine or prosecution may now have good grounds to request that they are withdrawn or discontinued.”

 

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