Parent wins court victory over term-time holiday fine

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A father prosecuted for taking his seven-year-old daughter to Disney World in Florida after her school refused permission for the holiday has had the fine overturned.

Jon Platt, 44, had a fine thrown out of court after successfully arguing that his daughter’s unauthorised absence did not mean she failed to attend school on a regular basis.

Fines are issued to parents who take pupils out of school when leave has not been granted - 64,000 fines were issued in 2013.

Teachers were able to apply ‘10 days of discretionary absence’ in “special circumstances”, but as of September 2013, the rules were updated, meaning now this can only be applied in “exceptional circumstances”.

Mr Platt had relied on a High Court case for legal precedence: “My kids’ education is absolutely critically important to me but I’m also responsible for their welfare.

“If I thought my kids’ education would be affected I wouldn’t have taken them.

“I knew exactly what the consequences were when I requested the time off and the school said it would be unauthorised.

“I make no criticism of the school - it’s an outstanding school and has an outstanding headteacher but she is bound by the Department of Education. She was just doing her job.

“I’ve had lots of messages from people, asking me ‘what is the loophole here?’

“But there is no loophole, the law just says your children must attend regularly.

“I had to prove nothing – they just had to prove my child’s attendance was not regular.”

Campaign group Parents Want a Say chairman, Craig Langman, said the group was expecting more parents to challenge their fines.

Mr Langman added: “It is definitely a move in the right direction.

“We will be investigating this case and hopefully be using it to help other parents fight these fines.

“Ultimately we want to see the rules reverted back so headteachers have the discretion to allow parents to take their children out of school for up to 10 days.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that because the ruling was made in a magistrates court, it is not binding in any other court and does not set a precedent.

The DfE spokesperson added: “It is a myth that missing school even for a short time is harmless to a child’s education.

“Our evidence shows missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is significantly less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances.

“Heads and teachers are now firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and most recent figures show we have made real progress - with 200,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school compared with five years ago.”