Parents' legal victory in fight against being charged to take children out of school


It's high time LAs all realised whose legal responsibility it is to ensure children are educated according to their age, aptitude and ability, which so many schools fail to do. State schooling is there to serve parents who opt to delegate (or just to take up a 'free' childminding service), not the other way round.

Parents' legal victory in fight against being charged to take children out of school

PARENTS facing prosecution for taking their children out of school during term time for a five day holiday have fought back – and had their cases thrown out of court.

The two couples – who cannot be identified due to a court order imposed to protect the identity of their children – appeared in two separate hearings at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Friday where they stood trial for failing to secure the regular attendance of their children at school.

The court heard that the first couple had taken their secondary-aged child on holiday between October 5 and October 9 of last year, despite having had no written permission from the school to do this.

They were issued with a fine which led to court proceedings where they pleaded not guilty to the charge on the grounds that neither the law nor Swindon Borough Council’s code of conduct sets out what constitutes as regular attendance.

Robert Morgan-Jones, prosecuting on behalf of Swindon Borough Council, said that the number of cases of missed school days appearing in court had increased since 2013 following a change in government legislation in a bid to tackle truancy.

Previously, head teachers had had a greater degree of discretionary powers to allow parents to take term-time holidays in “special circumstances”.

“The change was to change ‘special circumstances’ to ‘exceptional circumstances’ and what is very clear is that there is much less discretion to head teachers to grant leave,” said Mr Morgan-Jones.
Jon Platt's test case is coming up soon - one to watch

See also our When Jon met Jackie thread.
Here's the actual judgment:

Isle of Wight Council v Platt [2016] EWHC 1283 (Admin) (13 May 2016)

It relies heavily on what constitutes 'regular attendace' noting that:

16. The offence is committed if a child fails to attend school regularly without lawful excuse. Absence on an unauthorised holiday of itself does not necessarily constitute an offence in all cases. Clearly an unauthorised holiday could lead to a finding that there has not been regular attendance. However, as Sullivan J made clear in C, that absence on unauthorised holiday will have to be considered in all the circumstances of the case including attendance over a wider period than the period of absence. That worked to the disadvantage of the respondent in C and may work to the advantage of the respondent in the present case. I do not consider that it is open to the authority to criminalise every unauthorised holiday by the simple device of alleging in the information that there has been no regular attendance in a period limited to the absence on holiday. If that were carried to its logical conclusion, it would be open to the authority to bring a prosecution under section 444(1) in respect of an unauthorised absence from school without lawful excuse of one day by limiting the period of irregular attendance alleged in the information to that one day. On the appellant's case, there could be no answer to such a charge.
I.e. you could break the law with just one day's holiday which would be utterly daft!

Also, this is quoted:
Barnfather v London Borough of Islington [2003] 1 WLR 2318, at paragraph 57:
"I recognise that the penalties are small, being only a fine, and that is a factor which can properly be considered when determining whether an offence of strict liability is justified. However, in my opinion there is nonetheless a real stigma attached to being found guilty of a criminal offence of this nature. It suggests either an indifference to one's children, or incompetence at parenting, which in the case of the blameless parent will be unwarranted."
That's useful as they have recognised that parents should be treated with respect!

Overall, a victory for commonsense and there is probably not much that the Government can do about it.


Jon Platt's case is in the Supreme Court today

Usual bleating has emanated from teachers about every hour/day in school being vital and children having only one chance at education. :yawn:

The legal battle over term-time holidays reaches the Supreme Court today.

A father last year won a landmark High Court ruling blocking a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Florida during term time without a school's permission.

Two senior judges declared that Jon Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good attendance record during the rest of the year.

Isle of Wight Council, the local education authority that took Mr Platt to court, is asking five Supreme Court justices to overturn the High Court judgment in his favour.

It does so with the Government's firm backing.

The High Court judges upheld a magistrates court ruling that Mr Platt, originally from Northern Ireland, had no case to answer.
If the school timetable is so packed that every single minute is vitally important and shouldn't be wasted then clearly the system is asking way too much of children and it should be cut back to something more sensible and useful than learning how to pass all those tests.