School holidays campaigner braced for failure in Supreme Court challenge

School holidays campaigner braced for failure in Supreme Court challenge

A father spearheading a fight for the right for parents of children with good school attendance records to go on holiday during term time fears losing his battle.

He is preparing to take his younger daughter out of state school and educate her privately instead because he expects to lose the landmark court case after legally challenging the government’s prosecution of parents over term-time holidays.

Businessman Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight expects the Supreme Court to rule against him on Thursday when it hands down its judgment on whether taking children out of school during term time for a break without a head teacher’s permission is illegal.

The ruling comes during the Easter holidays. “I am absolutely sure we are going to lose this week,” Platt told The Sunday Times.

“I am preparing to pull my daughter out of her state primary school because I cannot risk going through all this again if I take her out of class because I, as her father, judge it is in her best interests. If she were in a private school, I would not be fined.”

Platt also plans a campaign to ask councils, which have discretion in how they apply the law, not to prosecute parents if their children have at least 90% annual attendance.

Isle of Wight council, backed by the Department for Education, appealed to the Supreme Court after Platt won a case in the magistrates’ court, followed by another in the High Court.

He had refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his younger daughter out of school for a week-long holiday to Walt Disney World in Florida in 2015.

Platt successfully argued in the lower courts that his daughter had “regular” attendance of more than 93% despite the week-long holiday and therefore he should not be fined or threatened with a criminal prosecution for refusing to pay.

Many councils stopped fining parents for term-time holidays after Platt’s victory. Holidays taken during term time are cheaper because travel companies push up prices during school holidays when there is peak demand.

Platt told the Supreme Court that the rules, brought in by ministers in 2013 in an attempt to boost school attendance figures, were a postcode lottery: Lancashire had issued nearly 4,000 penalty fines since May 2016 while Richmond, in south-west London, had prosecuted none.

Ministers have argued that taking children out of school for family holidays results in lower GCSE exam grades and overall academic attainment.

Since rules allowing head teachers to authorise up to 10 days extra leave a year were scrapped four years ago hundreds of thousands of families have been fined for taking children out of school in term time and thousands who refuse to pay have been prosecuted.

Data released last month by the DfE showed that one in 10 pupils were persistently absent from school.

Family holidays, authorised and unauthorised, accounted for 8.2% of all absences in 2015-16, up from 7.5% in 2014-15.

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