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Father loses his legal challenge against a fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday.

Father loses his legal challenge against a fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday.

The Supreme Court has this week ruled against a father, Jon Platt, after Mr Platt had won earlier battles in both the Magistrates Court and High Court over a £120 fine imposed by the Isle of Wight council.

The fine was imposed after Mr Platt took his daughter on a week-long holiday to Disney World during term-time and without the head teacher's permission. Crucially, this Supreme Court ruling rejects Mr Platt's argument that, despite missing a week of school for a holiday, his daughter had regularly attended over the course of the year, with an attendance rate of over 92%.

Isle of Wight Magistrates had previously accepted Mr Platt's argument that "regular attendance" should consider attendance across the whole year - and had decided that he had no case to answer. When this judgement was put to appeal, the High Court had agreed that the magistrates had been entitled to consider school attendance outside of the term-time absence.

But the Supreme Court has now overturned both of these earlier decisions saying that parents must comply with the rules set by schools and education authorities. 

The Supreme Court found that the penalty notice had been properly issued and that unless there was a reasonable cause for the absence (such as illness), Mr Platt should have expected to face a fine for his daughter's absence from school.

Giving her judgement, Lady Hale said that it would cause unacceptable disruption if parents were able to withdraw children whenever they wanted.

Head teachers' leader Malcolm Trobe backed the court's decision, saying that it ended a "period of uncertainty" over term-time holidays and the Department for Education said: "As before, head teachers have the ability to decide when exceptional circumstances allow for a child to be absent but today's ruling removes the uncertainty for schools and local authorities that was created by the previous judgement”.

The case will now be returned to the magistrates' court, where Mr Platt says he will continue to plead not guilty.

If you would like information or advice about a civil dispute please contact Close Thornton Senior Partner Shaun Burke on 01325 466461 or email shaun.burke@close-thornton.co.uk

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