Court ruling on term-time holidays backfires

CREDIT: This story was firstr seen in The Telegraph

Court ruling on term-time holidays backfires, as figures show surge in unauthorised absences, The Telegraph reports.

he number of parents taking their children on term-time holidays has risen despite a Supreme Court ruling that such absences are unlawful, figures show.

Figures released yesterday appear to show that the publicity generated during the landmark legal case  has backfired, with more parents looking to take advantage of cut-price fares during the school term.

Department for Education statistics reveal that 8.9 million days in unauthorised absence were recorded during the autumn and spring terms of the last academic year, up from 7.4 million the previous year.

Meanwhile, nearly two million pupils took at least one day off without permission, up from 1.7 million during the same period.

The surge coincided with a prolonged legal battle between the Isle of Wight council and Jon Platt, a local businessman who took his daughter on a trip to Disneyland Florida without her school’s permission.

After passing through the Magistrates, High Court and Court of Appeal, the high-profile dispute was finally settled in the Supreme Court, where it was concluded that even half a day’s absence was a breach of the law.

Mr Platt was subsequently sent back to the Isle of Wight Magistrates, where he was fined £2,000 for failing to pay a £60 truanting fine.

But the latest figures suggest that the case has only served in alerting parents to the fact that they only need to pay a small fine if they go on holiday without the school’s permission.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Mark Lehain, director of the campaign group Parents and Teachers for Excellence, said that the surge in absences showed that truanting fines were not an effective deterrent.

“I’m not surprised to see the spike because we know that parents who are threatened with financial penalties rather than seeing it as a moral obligation are more likely to flout the rules.

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“And parents do have a moral obligation to ensure their children are in school. Every parent has agreed that their children should be in school, and they should fulfil it or risk setting a bad example to their child.

“Clearly fixed-penalty notices can only ever be part of the solution, they won’t be enough to resolve the situation.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The rules are clear: children should not be taken out of school without good reason.

“Evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting impact on their life chances. Absences also impact on teachers, who will need to ensure children catch up on missed lessons.

“That is why we have tightened the rules to put teachers firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and we are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence.”

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