Mr Jon Platt, a father who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his six-year-old daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday to Florida, has won a ruling in his favour in the High Court on the basis that overall, his daughter attended school regularly.
Mr Platt’s case hinged upon the meaning of 'regular attendance' – a principle set out in the Education Act 1996, stating that a parent commits an offence if their child does not attend school regularly. Since 2013, there have been tougher central government regulations controlling absences with leave, which can only be granted in exceptional circumstances such as illness or for religious reasons.
The Isle of Wight Council has asked the High Court to clarify whether a seven-day absence amounted to a child failing to attend school regularly, even when the school has already refused permission for the trip.
According to local authority data, almost 64,000 parental fines were imposed for unauthorised absences in the first year of the new system. Many parents complain that the cost of going away in the school holidays can be up to four times as much as holidays during term time. However, the government says there is clear evidence to suggest ''that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chance of gaining good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances''
The government has now said it will consider making alterations to the law. "We will look at the judgement in detail but are clear children's attendance is non-negotiable so we will now look to change the law," said a spokesman for the Department for Education.