High Court back parents in term-time holiday challenge

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A lawyer representing parents challenging fines for taking their children on short-term breaks during term-time has welcomed the decision by the High Court to support the principle that 'regular attendance' is, and should remain, a subjective matter.

Julie Robertson

When Jonathan Platt from the Isle of Wight took his six-year old daughter to Disney World during term-time, he was prosecuted under the Education Act of 1996. The Isle of Wight Magistrates court threw out the case - triggering widespread cheers from parent campaigners. The High Court has now ruled in favour of Platt to the delight of parent campaigners across the country.

Julie Robertson from Simpson Millar solicitors comments on the decision: “This decision has provided much needed clarity for parents as to whether regular attendance can continue to be decided on an individual basis by the lower Courts. This decision gives parents the freedom and comfort to continue to take their children out of school during term time provided that they secure regular attendance on the whole.

“I welcome today's decision as one which will encourage Councils to adopt a proportionate and common sense approach before they decide to issue fixed penalties or move to prosecution - processes which have, over the years, placed parents in jeopardy of acquiring a criminal record. It is a redefinition of how the law regarding non-attendance at school is applied and that's a good thing.

“Hopefully we can now draw a line in the sand and leave the Magistrates to make decisions on an individual, case by case basis. It is simply impossible to provide a percentage figure for which level of attendance is considered regular.

“What constitutes reasonable attendance should be a discretionary matter for the Magistrates. It is not something you can put a blanket figure on without taking into account the academic record of each individual child.

“Attendance alone does not guarantee that a child will do well academically, nor does missing a few classes prevent them from succeeding.

“Prosecuting parents does not in any way help children to learn. Parenting decisions should not be based on fear of prosecution but on what is best for the child in a much broader context than simply ensuring they attend formal education. In my years of advising and defending parents in these cases, I have not once met someone who was criminally incompetent in their parenting.

“Holidays can be highly educational; broadening the horizon of children. If taken in moderation and in consultation with the child's teachers, the benefits could easily outweigh the disadvantages of missing class for a week.

“Let's not forget the huge benefits of children spending quality time with their families. The value of children creating significant memories, learning new skills and gaining an insight into foreign cultures seems to be completely overlooked.

"It is only sensible that the parents and the teachers who know the children well are allowed to make individual decisions about whether or not it is acceptable for them to be away during term-time."




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