MPs to call for lifting of ban on term-time holidays

MPs to call for lifting of ban on term-time holidays

Some Conservative MPs are today expected to call on the government to lift the ban on term-time holidays.

A petition signed by nearly 200,000 people on the issue is due to be debated in the Commons.

Ten local councils in England were reported over the weekend to have dropped court cases against parents over term-time holidays following a recent court victory by one father.

Six have stopped issuing fines and 11 are reviewing their policies following Jon Platt, from the Isle of Wight, winning a court victory after taking his daughter on a family holiday to Florida during term-time.

Others are pushing ahead and have sought gagging orders, making it difficult for families to publicise their stories, according to the Sunday Times. More than 80 local councils provided information to the BBC following Platt winning his case in the High Court in May

Forty-nine of them said they were not changing any of their procedures and a handful responded but only to say they would not comment.

The court ruled that Platt was not liable to pay absence fines to Isle of Wight Council because his daughter had a good attendance record. But the council has since been told it can apply to challenge the decision.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "The rules are perfectly clear - children should not be taken out of school without good reason.

"That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence.

"The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances - vindicating our strong stance on attendance.

"A child who is absent also impacts teachers, whose planning of lessons is disrupted by children missing large portions of teaching."

An appeal by Isle of Wight Council will be heard later this year.

The information on councils' responses comes after the DfE published statistics showing there were 151,125 penalty notices issued to parents in England for their children's term-time absence from school during 2014-15.

The figure represented a 54% increase compared with the previous year. But the figures cover a period before Platt's victory in the High Court.

Under the government’s ban on term-time holidays 92,000 parents were fined an estimated £5.6 million in 2014-15.

Meanwhile, Michael and Charlotte Lewis, also from the Isle of Wight, successfully applied to have a gagging order lifted so they could speak about their case to The Sunday Times.

The order, which prevented publication of anything that could identify Charlotte’s two teenage children, was imposed by the court during proceedings against the family for alleged failure to ensure regular school attendance.

Isle of Wight council had argued that the order should continue after the case had been dropped. But the couple argued that lifting it was in the public interest because a national debate about the legality of taking children out of school in term-time is under way.

“This is a matter of public interest for families in the Isle of Wight and more widely in the UK. The case forms part of an ongoing debate on a topic of public importance,” Michael Lewis told the newspaper. “I would urge other families who find themselves in this position to try to ensure they can speak out.”

The Lewises said their legal battle started after they took Charlotte’s children out of school last year for a holiday in Egypt. One reason they booked a break during term time was to stay in a resort that would not be overcrowded, because one of the children is autistic and finds crowds stressful.

On their return they moved house. When a summons to attend court reached their new address, the Lewises found they had been convicted and fined in their absence and faced costs of nearly £1,600 and a gagging order.

They successfully applied to have the conviction set aside but the reporting restrictions stayed in place until the weekend.


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