Parents ‘must obey school rules’ Supreme Court says
April 6, 2017 4 comments
The Supreme Court has overturned lower court rulings in favour of a father who had taken his daughter on holiday during term time.
The case concerned Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight, who had applied to his eight year-old daughter’s headteacher for permission to take her on holiday for a week during term time in 2015. When the headteacher refused, Mr Platt took her anyway and as a result received a fixed penalty which he in term to refused to pay. As a result the fine was doubled to £120 and he was taken to the local magistrates court – but they found in the father’s favour, saying he had “no case to answer” because her attendance across the school year remained at over 90 per cent.
Isle of Wight Council decided to pursue the case, with support from the Department for Education. The High Court backed the magistrates’ decision, however, saying it was one they had been entitled to reach. The Council duly took their case further up the judicial ladder and the Supreme Court has now found unanimously in its favour.
Giving the sole judgement, Deputy Supreme Court President Lady Justice Hale said the decision turned on the interpretation of a key word in the relevant section of the Education Act 1996. This states that parents of school age children are guilty of an offence if their offspring “fails to attend regularly”. In the lower courts, Mr Platt had successfully argued that his daughter’s good attendance record over the rest of the school year meant that she was indeed attending “regularly”.
But, Lady Hale insisted, ‘regularly’ had to mean “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school”. Unauthorised absences and affected the progress of the child in question and their classmates she said.
“These disrupt the education of the individual child. Work missed has to be made up, requiring extra work by the teacher who has already covered and marked this subject matter with the other pupils. Having to make up for one pupil’s absence may also disrupt the work of other pupils. Group learning will be diminished by the absence of individual members of the group.”
There would also be a snowball effect if one parent was allowed to take their child out of school when it suited them, Her Ladyship continued. Other parents would do the same “thus increasing the disruptive effect exponentially.”
The case will now be remitted to Mr Platt’s local magistrates court, with instructions to issue a new ruling as though they had rejected his case at the earlier hearing.
Mr Platt said the Supreme Court’s decision meant the state was “taking the rights away from parents“.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education welcomed the judgement however.
“We are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position – that no child should be taken out of school without good reason. As before, head teachers have the ability to decide when exceptional circumstances allow for a child to be absent but today’s ruling removes the uncertainty for schools and local authorities that was created by the previous judgment.”
The full ruling is available here.
April 6, 2017
Categories: Family Life