Despite Court Ruling, Term Time Holidays Are On The Rise
The Law Of… Punishing Parents Unfairly
A high profile court case ruled that a council was within its rights to slap a punitive fine on a family who took their child on holiday during term time. Despite this, occurrences of 'unauthorised school absence' are on the rise.
Julie Robertson, a Simpson Millar Partner who specialises in term time holiday law, looks at what the current rules say and how you can be punished for holidaying with your kids.
A Supreme Court Ruling
Earlier this year, Jon Platt, a father from the Isle of Wight, made the headlines following a drawn out battle that took place in the Magistrates’ Court, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
The judicial tussle arose after Platt was fined £60 for taking his daughter to Disneyland during term time. Platt refused to pay and the resulting legal contest took him to the highest criminal appeal court in the country.
He eventually lost his case and was ordered to return to Magistrates’ Court, where he was convicted of the original offence and fined £2,000.
Term Time Holidays On The Rise
Even though the Platt case received blanket coverage in the media, recently released statistics show that it hasn't deterred other parents. Families have continued to follow suit and make the most of the considerable disparity between school holiday and term time holiday prices.
The figures, released by the Department for Education, represent the Autumn/Spring terms for 2016/2017:
- Percentage of days off without an authorised reason – 1.1% (up 0.2% from 15/16 term)
- Percentage of sessions missed due to unauthorised family holidays – 0.3% (up 0.1% from 15/16 term)
The new rules regarding unauthorised absence and term time holidays were introduced in 2013 and decreed that a parent could only take their child out of school in the event of illness or 'exceptional circumstances'. This does not include holidays, regardless of the benefits to the child.
What Are The Punishments For Taking My Child On A Term Time Holiday?
Local Authorities and schools have a number of means at their disposal for dealing with the parents of children that are continually absent without authorisation:
- Parenting order – An order to attend parenting classes and follow prescribed measures to improve your child's attendance
- Education Supervision Order – Appointment of a supervisor to assist your child in attending school
- School Attendance Order – An order to provide evidence of your child's registration with the listed school or of a home education
- Fixed Penalty Notice – A fine of £60, rising to £120 if unpaid within 21 days. Prosecution is possible if you fail to pay within 28 days
- Prosecution – A fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a maximum prison sentence of 3 months.
As far as term time holidays are concerned, the fixed penalty notice is generally the first port of call, although your local authority has the power to disregard this step and immediately press forward with prosecution.
Fines and prosecutions are issued at the discretion of the school or council.
Punishing Parents And Children Alike
During the 2015/16 academic year almost £9million worth of these fines were issued, affecting 150,000 families.
"When this policy was introduced, with the threat of fines and prosecution for anyone taking their child on holiday during term time, it offered the unsavoury prospect of criminalising otherwise law-abiding parents."
"These were parents who might not have the financial means to treat their children to a break once the prices are hiked for the school holidays. It sends out the message that even if you want what's best for your children and ensure they attend school regularly, you're as irresponsible as those who allow their children to play truant. This simply isn't true."
"With work commitments making it harder for families to spend quality time together, a holiday is an important part of the calendar. It allows parents to not only enjoy time with their children, but also to relax and recharge their batteries. This is an important part of family life."
"Unfortunately, prohibitive pricing during the so-called peak season prevents many families from doing this, unless, of course, they take advantage of the lower rates during term time. Aside from raising a little extra money for cash-strapped councils, all this law does is punish parents and children alike."
If you need professional advice regarding a term time fine, contact Simpson Millar today.