A father who refused to pay a school fine for taking his daughter on holiday during term time has lost his legal battle at the Supreme Court.
Jon Platt, who took his daughter to Disney World in Florida for seven days in 2015, was fined £120 by her school on the Isle of Wight, but challenged the penalty, arguing that the seven year-old had an attendance rate of more than 90 per cent.
Today five Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled in favour of Isle of Wight Council, which took Mr Platt to court in a bid to overturn a High Court judgment in his favour last year.
While the Platt case has not changed the rules on term-time absence, which have been in place for a number of years, she said the judgement had removed any ambiguity around the rule that children can only be taken out of school for “exceptional circumstances”.
She added: “Regular attendance has to be in accordance with the rules of the school. The Head teacher continues to have the ability to authorise absence in exceptional circumstances, which are very limited. If the Head teacher does not give permission for the absence then a fine of up to £60 per parent per child is issued, which rises to £120 if this is not paid within 28 days. If the fine remains unpaid the parents can be prosecuted which can lead to a fine of up to £2,500 and three months imprisonment.
“In this case, the Isle of Wight Council sought to argue that the words ‘regularly attends’ should be interpreted as ‘attends each and every day that the school requires it’.
“This judgment means that parents who remove their child from school, even for a day, without permission of the Head teacher, risk committing a criminal offence.
“This clearly shows the gravity with which the court views a child’s attendance at school, and I would expect it will make parents think twice before taking their children out of school without approval or in the absence of an emergency.
“There is no further route of appeal for Mr Platt, and the likelihood of a case of this nature coming to the Supreme Court again in the foreseeable future is very unlikely. Most parents will simply not take their children out of school or will just pay the fines.”