The dad at the centre of today’s Supreme Court case on term-time holidays has warned the travel industry there are “millions” of pounds in revenue at stake if he loses.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today (Tues) in the government-backed appeal against parents taking their children out of school during term-time.
Jon Platt, who won his case after refusing to pay a fine for taking his daughter on holiday to Florida in term-time, said: “If I lose there is a lot at stake for the travel industry. The industry will lose millions of pounds because parents will not be able to take any term-time holidays.”
Platt, from the Isle of Wight, won his case last year by arguing his daughter’s attendance record was good, and the decision was upheld in the High Court after his local council appealed.
The Isle of Wight council has now taken the case to the Supreme Court at the request of the Department for Education, which is footing the legal bill for the local authority.
Platt said he remained confident the court judges would find in his favour, although it is unlikely a result will come today.
He said: “I find it very hard to believe they will criminalise the actions of millions of parents, but it would be arrogant to say I am 100% confident. I am hoping they don’t make every unauthorised absence a criminal offence.”
He added that there were 12.8 million unauthorised absences during term-time in schools last year.
Platt’s legal team will argue that the Department for Education’s policy to fine parents who allow their children to have unauthorised absence from school is flawed, as many schools include illness in this category.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “I asked parents whether their child’s illness has been asked as ‘unauthorised absence’ because they cannot produce a GP’s letter, and hundreds responded.”
Parents from across the country told him that schools demanded to see a doctor’s note to prove that their child was sick.
However, most doctors refuse to give sick notes since British Medical Association guidelines state that: “GPs do not provide sick notes for school children…parents/guardians are responsible for excusing their children from school”.
Platt said that this revelation undermines the government’s policy to fine parents for unauthorised absence because “you can’t drag a parent to court because their child is sick”.
He added: “Some of the parents are quite heartbroken, their children are profoundly unwell – hundreds have pulled their children out of school altogether as they can’t live with the constant threat of court action.
“There is a very good reason why we are raising this point. If the government are trying to criminalise any unauthorised absence, that will include parents of sick children.”
The government has cracked down on unauthorised absence at schools, despite parents’ complaints that travelling during the academic holidays is vastly more expensive than in term time.
But the High Court ruled last year that it is not illegal to remove a child from school as long as they had a good attendance record.
Platt’s solicitor Lee Peckham, a litigation partner at Roach Pittis, said: “There are significant public policy implications and a need for certainty particularly for parents who may be criminalised.
“I am naturally confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the decision of the High Court, which I believe to be the correct one.”
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