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Parents school fine overturned

View profile for Andrew Barrowclough
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The rights and wrongs of term-time fines

Parents being fined for taking their children out of school during term time has become a controversial topic since the policy was introduced over two years ago.

You may have read about the story of a father, Jon Platt, who was fined for taking his daughter to Disney World during term time; the father then went on to successfully overturn his fine. Mr Platt argued that his daughter’s unauthorised absence did not mean that his daughter failed to attend school on a regular basis.

Mr Platt, whose daughter had 100 per cent attendance up until the point of her Disney World trip, said:

"Her attendance for the whole of the last school year was nearly 94 per cent. I don't know where the threshold is but quite frankly parents need to decide for themselves.

"My kids' education is absolutely critically important to me but I'm also responsible for their welfare. If I thought my kids' education would be affected I wouldn't have taken them.”

Mr Platt argued that section 444 of the Education Act requires parents to ensure their children attend school regularly.  He felt that his daughter’s 100% attendance record for the current school year was evidence that she was attending regularly and that he was in fact abiding by the guidelines.

As a parent you are legally obliged to provide your child with an education, whether by sending them to school, or by providing for a home education.

Last year alone, over 64,000[1] parents were issued fixed-penalty notices because they took their children out of school during term time – an increase of 70% over the previous year. The fine is calculated as £60 per parent per child per period of absence (which increases to £120 if not paid within 21 days). Those who fail to pay may be prosecuted, with a maximum fine of £2,500 [2]or a jail sentence of up to three months.

At HCB we are generally pleased that this Mr Platt’s fine was overturned. We believe that parents’ commitment to education cannot be measured by attendance figures alone. There may be circumstances that justify an absence during term time. We understand it’s not always black and white, but it should be your decision to allow your child time out from their education to spend quality time with their family and loved ones. Aside from this, we would agree that taking your child on holiday can sometimes be part of their education and development.

Has Mr Platt’s victory in the courtroom now cast a shadow over term time fines?  Aside from opening the potential for more appeals, are the days of term time fines now numbered?

We appreciate that no situation is the same; each situation we are faced with at HCB is unique. Listening to parents and helping them get the best education for their children is extremely rewarding.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to your child’s attendance, please contact a member of our team who will happily discuss this with you.

[1] Based on a survey of 118 councils conducted by the BBC in September 2013

[2] Reported by The Guardian