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Father who brought daughter to Disney World during school year loses British Supreme Court case

In today’s Supreme Court judgment, justices unanimously agreed that the word ‘regularly’ means “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school”.

Image: Karen Eckberg via Flickr/CC

A BRITISH FATHER has lost a Supreme Court case after he was fined for taking his daughter on holiday during the school term.

The court ruled against Jon Platt, who had previously won cases against a £120 fine imposed by Isle of Wight council.

Platt’s case concerned a law that allows parents be fined if their children do not attend school “regularly”.

Platt had sought permission from his daughter’s head teacher to remove her from school during term time for a holiday to Florida. The head teacher refused the request but Platt took his daughter on holiday as planned, causing her to miss seven school days in April 2015.

On her return, he was served with a £60 fine which he did not pay before he was prosecuted in the Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court. The fine was increased to €120.

The magistrates ruled that Platt had no case to answer, saying that his daughter had attended school ‘regularly’ – as required by the law – because, even after the holiday, she had attended 90.3% of the time up to that point in the academic year.

Jon Platt court case Jon Platt speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in London. Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The Council appealed on the issue of whether the magistrates had been entitled to take into account attendance at school outside the period of the absence.

In today’s Supreme Court judgment, justices unanimously agreed that the word ‘regularly’ means “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school”.

It added:

A boarder fails to attend regularly if he is absent without leave during any part of the school term, and there is no reason why 100% attendance should be required of boarders but not of day pupils.
Accordingly, the penalty notice was properly issued to Mr Platt and, having not paid the penalty fine, he should have been convicted of the offence unless he can establish one of the statutory exceptions.

Lady Hale’s judgment adds that Platt’s actions were “a slap in the face” to other parents.

Finally, given the strictness of the previous law, Parliament is unlikely to have found it acceptable that parents could take their children out of school in blatant disregard of the school rules, either without having asked for permission at all or, having asked for it, been refused. This is not an approach to rule-keeping which any educational system can be expected to find acceptable. It is a slap in the face to those obedient parents who do keep the rules, whatever the cost or inconvenience to themselves.

The BBC quotes Platt as saying outside court that the decision meant the “state was taking the rights away from parents”.

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