"Holiday fines" case heads to High Court

Published: 2nd Nov 2015

A couple of weeks ago, we pointed out that the law on "holiday fines" hasn't changed, despite widespread reporting of a "landmark legal battle" by a parent faced with prosecution for taking his daughter out of school in term time.

Jon Platt successfully argued in court that he wasn't guilty of "failure to secure regular attendance at school", despite this holiday.

We noted that the outcome of that case actually has no formal repercussions. It was in the magistrates' court, the lowest rung on the ladder—magistrates can't set legal precedents that would have to be followed in other cases.

But the High Court can, and the case is now heading there. The Isle of Wight Council announced on 30 October that it would appeal the magistrates' court ruling "for clarification on a matter of law".

The Council says that "the recent media attention given to this case shows that there is interest, concern and, above all, uncertainty as to what constitutes 'regular attendance' for the purposes of the legislation in question".

Official guidance states that parents can be issued with fines in situations including "holidays taken during term time without the school's permission". But that's only as an alternative to prosecution for irregular attendance—it's not clear that the guidance is correct that fines can be given when attendance is generally regular. The High Court will be asked to decide on this.

In the meantime, the Council is sticking to the guidance—so nothing changes for parents unless and until the High Court declares that it's wrong.

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