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Magistrates throw out local authority prosecution over term-time holidays

Magistrates on the Isle of Wight have rejected attempts by the island’s council to enforce a fine on a parent who took his daughter on holiday in term-time.

Jon Platt was taken to court after refusing to pay a £120 fine for his six-year-old daughter’s absence from school in April, after a request to take her out of school for a family holiday was refused by the school.

Mr Platt successfully argued that section 444 of the Education Act requires parents to ensure their children attend school "regularly", but does not put specific restrictions on taking them on holidays in term time. His daughter had a 93.8% attendance rate the previous academic year.

"I cannot allow a local education authority to tell me what is right for my kids - I know what is best for my kids," he told the BBC. ""LEAs are trying to use the legislation intended to stop truancy to stop parents taking their kids on holiday. There is no complex loophole - parents have nothing to fear from LEAs ... if your children have attended school regularly."

A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Council said: "We can confirm that the council, as local education authority, had proceeded with legal action in this case in accordance with the appropriate legislation, Department for Education regulations and guidance.

"We acknowledge the decision of the court in this matter - and the council is currently reviewing this outcome."

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But Plaid Cymru councillors Shelley Rees-Owen and Pauline Jarman were scathing of the new measures for RCT – especially about a zero-tolerance approach for holidays during term time.

 

Coun Rees-Owen said: “Our primary and secondary schools are all improving their attendance – all 19 secondary schools did in the last year.

 

“I am very concerned the relationship with schools and families will be compromised. Parents simply cannot afford a holiday out of term time. Family time away is vital for many people.

 

“This is a flippant blanket approach which does not consider work commitments or financial circumstances of parents.”

 

Coun Jarman added: “We are working to a anti-poverty agenda. They need to introduce instalments to the payments, because this will only serve to criminalise families who cannot afford to pay.

 

“And what about people who work in the construction industry, who work in our schools when they are shut? This is a negative approach at a time when attendance is actually improving across the board.

 

“Also, headteachers still have the authority to grant 10 days of absence to a pupil – I have checked and this is still on the statute book. I will be getting in touch with the Welsh Government.”

Full story on 

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/rct-parents-face-120-fine-7559078