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School term-time holiday case reaches Supreme Court - what are your views?

PUBLISHED: 12:05 31 January 2017 | UPDATED: 13:52 31 January 2017

Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where he is challenging a fine issued for taking his daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Jon Platt outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, where he is challenging a fine issued for taking his daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The case of a father who successfully challenged a conviction for taking his daughter on holiday during school time will be heard in the Supreme Court today.

Jon Platt appealed against the £120 fine from Isle of Wight Council after he took his daughter to Florida during term time.

In 2015, magistrates ruled that he had no case to answer because his daughter attended school regularly.

After that ruling, the council submitted papers to the Supreme Court, successfully seeking permission to launch a final legal challenge.

The verdict has left the rules across councils fragmented - with many, including Norfolk County Council, relaxing their stance on the issue.

Dean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. 
Dean and his wife Loraine were fined for taking their children out of school for their wedding in Florida. They refused to pay the fine and were taken to court by Suffolk County Council and won. 

Picture: Nick ButcherDean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. Dean and his wife Loraine were fined for taking their children out of school for their wedding in Florida. They refused to pay the fine and were taken to court by Suffolk County Council and won. Picture: Nick Butcher

Suffolk family’s victory

Just one month ago, the Pierpoint family, from Suffolk, triumphed in their case against the county council.

Dean and Lorraine took two of their children, nine-year-old Preston and seven-year-old Riley, out of Pakefield Primary School to attend a wedding in Florida.

The couple, who were represented by a solicitor funded by Mr Platt, were fined by the council but won their case at Great Yarmouth, when magistrates decided there was no case to answer.

MORE: U-turn over fines for parents who take their children out of school

At the time, Mr Pierpoint said: “Why is Suffolk County Council trying to give parents criminal records, which can impact on their livelihoods?

“What they talk about in the courtroom is statistics of your child’s attendance. They don’t hear about the support you give them after school or the money you pay into the school for trips.”

It came after Hannah and Richard Smith, from Lowestoft, also had their case against them withdrawn outside the courtroom.

How have councils’ approaches changed?

Suffolk County Council has put the responsibility onto headteachers, while Norfolk County Council relaxed its stance after the Pierpoint decision, deciding not to punish parents who took their children for holidays if overall attendance was good.

Instead, 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.

In December, a Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “Making sure students in Norfolk get an excellent education is a priority for the council and being at school is absolutely vital if our young people are to reach their potential, as there is a clear link between school attendance and performance.”

Cambridgeshire County Council does not issue parents with a penalty notice for a first unauthorised absence. Penalty notices are only issued for subsequent unauthorised absences which take a child’s attendance below 90pc.

Reaction

We used social media to ask for your thoughts on the debate. Here is a selection:

Paul Robinson tweeted to say: “Work dictates when parents holiday, schools shouldn’t.”

Angela Bell commented on Facebook and said: “My children will miss three days of school for a two week holiday at Easter. They will learn far more I believe visiting a different country. Learning is not all about being in the classroom.”

Diane Fenn added: “As long as a pupil has over 95pc attendance to begin with I don’t see a problem with it, although holidays from year nine to 11 should be avoided due to GCSE coursework.”

Lisa Brewster posted that “no-one will dictate to me whether I can take my children on a family holiday... Our children are ours to raise how we deem fit”.

She said, instead, holiday companies who hiked prices up should be targeted.

Sabrina Fenn agreed that costs holiday companies charged during school breaks should be regulated.

We’d like to know your thoughts on taking children out of school during term time - do you do it? Or is every day at school important?

Leave your comments below or call Lauren Cope on 01603 772313.

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