Father Wins Term-Time Holiday High Court Case

Education Lawyers Say Ruling Highlights Need For Clarity On Current Laws


Dave Grimshaw, Press Officer | 0114 274 4397

Expert education lawyers today said that there was a need for clarity in the law after a High Court ruling in favour of a man who refused to pay a fine which was issued after he took his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday.

Jon Platt took his daughter to Disney World in April 2015 but her school on the Isle of Wight had refused him permission for the trip. She ultimately missed seven days of lessons and he was given a £60 fine which was doubled under guidelines after he refused to pay. He was then prosecuted by his local authority for failing to ensure his daughter attended school regularly.

Magistrates had ruled in his favour and said his daughter did attend school regularly but the Isle of Wight Council sought clarity in the High Court which also ruled in his favour.

Expert education lawyers at Irwin Mitchell said that whilst the decision will be welcomed by parents, that the case highlighted the inconsistencies in the law in this area.

Expert Opinion
“The High Court has confirmed today that local authorities should not be criminalising unauthorised holidays in term time by alleging that there is a failure to regularly attend school simply by looking at the period of holiday absence.

“When looking at whether attendance is regular, local authorities should consider the “wider picture” including overall attendance record. In this case, a 93% attendance record was sufficient.

“The ruling will have significant implications across the country for local authorities who will no longer be able to prosecute parents simply for taking children on unauthorised holidays during school time when the child otherwise has good attendance at school.

“The decision clearly raises serious questions in relation to the current practice of issuing fixed penalty notices and I anticipate that there will now be many more parents refusing to pay these fines.

“What is clear is that there needs to be much greater clarity on this issue for all concerned – in particular for Head Teachers and Schools who will still be left only being able to authorise absences in exceptional circumstances.”
Polly Sweeney, Partner

The government immediately issued a statement saying it will now consider making alterations to the law.

Since 2013, tougher government regulations have meant head teachers can only grant leave of absence to pupils during term time in "exceptional circumstances" in a bid to clamp down on families seeking to get cheaper holidays out of term time.