‘A child’s education is worth more than a week in the sun’: Inspiration Trust’s Dame Rachel de Souza backs Supreme Court ruling
- Credit: PA
A father has today lost a landmark legal battle at the UK's highest court over taking his daughter to Disney World during school term-time.
Five justices at the Supreme Court unanimously allowed an appeal by education chiefs against an earlier ruling that Jon Platt had not acted unlawfully.
Mr Platt, who took his daughter on a seven-day family trip to Florida in April 2015 without the school's permission, was prosecuted by Isle of Wight Council after he refused to pay a £120 penalty.
But local magistrates found there was no case to answer.
Two High Court judges in London later upheld the magistrates' decision, declaring Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90%.
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They said the magistrates were entitled to take into account the 'wider picture' of the child's attendance record outside of the dates she was absent on the holiday.
Dame Rachel de Souza, chief executive of Inspiration Trust, which runs 13 schools in Norfolk and north Suffolk, said: 'This decision is a victory for common sense. Most parents recognise that a child's education is more important than a cheap week in the sun, and the law is quite clear that pupils must be in school.
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'Teachers will always do their best to support every child, but a free-for-all on holidays would make it impossible to plan lessons and build up pupils' knowledge over a sustained period. That ultimately hurts our children, which neither parents nor teachers want.
'While we have great sympathy with parents facing higher holiday costs - and we as teachers face the same problems - missing out on crucial education could impact the rest of a child's life. That's not worth a few days on a beach.'
In an action closely watched by schools and parents all over the country, the council urged the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court decision, saying it raised important issues over what constitutes 'regular attendance' at school.
The justices ruled in the council's favour.
Speaking after the ruling was given, Mr Platt said he was 'not at all surprised' at the judgment.
He said: 'I'm pleased that they acknowledged the judgment doesn't go on to say what the school rules should be. Schools need to think very carefully about what these rules should be.
'Some have policies that mean that every day missed is a criminal offence.'
He added that schools needed to build in some flexibility to 'attenuate the shocking outcome of this case'.
The case has prompted debate about parents' rights and the issue of hiked-up costs for holidays during school breaks.
Many councils, including Norfolk and Cambridgeshire County Council, have relaxed their stance in the light of the case, saying the child's overall attendance record would be taken into account when deciding whether to issue a fine.
In Norfolk, fines are only issued for holiday absences when there are other unauthorised absences which take the attendance percentage below 90pc in a 12-week period.
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