Can schools still fine parents for taking their children on holiday during term-time?

Last month’s landmark case involving a parent taking his daughter on an “unauthorised holiday” has led to a flurry of questions on how this may affect others caught in a similar predicament.

Despite the High Court ruling in favour of Jon Platt, a father who refused to pay a fine to his Local Authority for taking his daughter to Disney World, Florida, in April 2015 during term-time, the law remains unchanged.

As it currently stands, unless your child is home-schooled, you as parent or legal guardian have a responsibility in law to ensure that your child regularly attends school. In legal terms, knowingly allowing your child to miss school – including taking them on a family holiday – may be considered a failure to provide proper education, and it leaves you liable to prosecution.

This is how the law stands at the moment. If your child is deemed to have missed school without a sufficiently good reason, your local council or school can serve you with one or more of the following:

* A Parenting Order. This forces you to attend parenting classes.

* An Education Supervision Order. This may be served if you are deemed uncooperative and refuse to accept the support that the Local Authority says that you need.

* A School Attendance Order. This may be served if the local council believes your child is receiving no education at all.

* A fine and/or prosecution. This may be a fine of £60, which will be doubled if it remains unpaid for 21 days. If the fine is still unpaid within 28 days, you may be prosecuted, and could ultimately face a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or even three months in prison.

Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 states that parents are liable for prosecution if their children fail to “attend regularly at school”. In this particular case, Mr Platt was able to demonstrate that with or without a short holiday in Florida, his daughter’s attendance was actually exemplary.

Councils may still pursue parents over their children’s absences from school, but Mr Platt’s case illustrates that schools’ decisions are not necessarily going to be the final word in every case.Anita Chopra

Read more on this case here.

Anita Chopra is a director at education law specialists Match Solicitors and is a regular media commentator on legal issues arising in education. She has a “huge breadth of experience across all kinds of education” and “has a great instinct for cases.”

Main photo by Sarah Bernier / Pixabay