Term time holidays may have just got a lot more expensive following the recent Supreme Court decision in Isle of Wight v Platt.
Whether or not you accept that absence from school is likely to detrimentally affect a child’s education or you believe that there are educational benefits for children from foreign travel, the law has been clarified by the Supreme Court. There is evidence to suggest that repeated absence from school is likely to detrimentally affect a child’s education and therefore the Education Act 1996 provides that if a child of compulsory school age, “fails to attend regularly” at the school where they are a registered pupil, the child’s parent is guilty of an offence.
The issue for the Supreme Court which had resulted in uncertainty in the law and which deterred many schools from issuing fixed penalty tickets and local authorities prosecuting was “what does regularly mean?”
The court was asked to consider whether regularly meant:-
a) Evenly spaced
b) Sufficiently often
c) In accordance with the school rules
The Supreme Court decided that the word “regularly” means “in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school” meaning that a parent of a child who has a very high percentage for attendance could be successfully prosecuted for an unauthorised absence despite the fact that their child has attended on a very regular basis. The Court rejected the argument that regular meant at regular intervals as once weekly intervals could be regular. The Court also rejected the argument that to attend “sufficiently frequently” was sufficient as it was too vague and uncertain for the basis of criminal liability.
It is naturally open to schools and Local Authorities to use their discretion when deciding whether or not to issue a penalty notice or to prosecute, but if a decision to prosecute is taken, a previously good record of attendance won’t necessarily be sufficient to avoid a conviction and penalty.