Council appeals term-time holidays decision to High Court

The Isle of Wight Council has appealed to the High Court to overturn the decision of a Magistrates’ Court not to enforce a fine against a parent who took his daughter out of school for a family holiday.

Last month, local resident Jon Platt successfully argued that s444 of the Education Act required parents to ensure their children attend school ‘regularly’ but did not put specific restrictions on taking them on holidays in term time. Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court agreed that there was ‘no case to answer’ in relation to the non-payment of a fine for an ‘unauthorised absence’ from school.

Council leader and Executive member for children’s services, Councillor Jonathan Bacon, said: “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. This is not a question that can be resolved by any local authority.

“The decision made by the magistrates was made on a point of law. The Isle of Wight Council has received clear advice that the magistrates may have failed to interpret and apply the law correctly in making their decision. Where the law created by Parliament is uncertain, the Appeal Courts have the ability to lay down a binding ruling as to the correct interpretation of the law.

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"The Isle of Wight Council is of the view that, in light of the advice given, the importance of the issue and the need to obtain clarity, it would be appropriate to appeal the magistrates’ decision in this case in order to obtain a clear binding ruling as to what the law is on this issue. This will benefit parents and local authorities both on the Island and across the country, and may also inspire Parliament to look again at the legislation, which many feel they ought to.”

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 September 2013, removed references to family holidays and extended leave as well as the notional threshold of ten school days.

The amendments made clear that head teachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless ‘exceptional circumstances' exist. The regulations also state that head teachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if leave is granted for ‘exceptional circumstances'. A holiday is not classed as an ‘exceptional circumstance’.

Following the Magistrates Court decision, the Local Government Association (LGA) urged the Department for Education to change the rules on term-time holidays, saying “a reasonable, common sense approach” should be allowed and argued that head-teachers should be allowed to give reasonable consideration to term-time leave requests.

The Isle of Wight council said that it would “continue to implement the government’s current statutory guidance around attendance” until the appeal had been determined.

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