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Council fails in prosecution over school attendance and term-time holidays

A borough council has failed in a bid to prosecute two sets of parents who took their children out during term-time, it has been reported.

According to The Times, officers at Swindon Borough Council had accused the parents of failing to secure regular attendance.

The background to the two cases was:

  • A secondary school pupil was taken out of class for a five-day holiday in October 2015 without written permission. The pupil concerned attended 92.96% of classes during the autumn term from September 2 and December 18 last year. But the council argued that the pupil’s attendance fell to 86.84% when measured against the first half-term from September to October, when the holiday was taken. The school concerned is understood to have set a higher threshold of 93%.
  • A primary-aged child was taken out of school for five days in September 2015, putting their attendance figure at 92.14%.

The Department for Education has said that a child should be considered a serious truant if they miss 10% or more of lesson time. 

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Magistrates in Swindon ruled, however, that there was no case to answer, saying there was no legal benchmark for 'non-regular attendance'.

Gail Chilcott, chairman of the bench, is also reported to have said the period of absence should be based on the period of September to December, rather than the shorter term.

The father of the secondary school child said: “I am delighted with the outcome. The question of what constitutes ‘non-regular’ attendance does need to be defined as it will then hopefully reduce the number of these cases being brought to the courts.”

In a statement Swindon Borough Council said: “The verdict has only just been delivered, and we are now considering our options. We have a responsibility to make sure that children get the best education they can, and attendance at school is a vitally important part of that.”

In October 2015 Magistrates on the Isle of Wight rejected attempts by the island’s council to enforce a £120 fine on a parent who took his daughter on holiday during term-time.

The father 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.

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