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In light of the Jon Platt case, can schools still fine parents for keeping their children out of school?

In light of the Jon Platt case, can schools still fine parents for keeping their children out of school?

Now that the hype has died down a bit with the Jon Platt ‘unauthorised holiday’ case ruling in the media we thought it was time for a bit of considered reflection on what all this means.

Despite the landmark case last week when the High Court ruled in favour of a father who refused to pay a fine to his Local Authority for taking his daughter on an unauthorised holiday in term-time, the law for the moment 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.

The decision by Isle of Wight magistrates to dismiss the prosecution does not set a precedent in legal terms, however, as other courts will not be bound to follow suit. It will, though, certainly result in considerable pressure on Local Authorities to apply common sense to each individual case.

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.

Headteachers will certainly need to take a more considered approach to requests for absences and a simple refusal will not be accepted anymore without the wider picture being looked at. In this particular case, Jon Platt’s daughter had a total of 19 days absence across the school year and that was deemed as being within the boundaries of regular attendance. The Department of Education will need to clarify what ‘regular attendance’ really means to stop a flood of similar cases coming through.

If you feel you have been fined unfairly by your child's school and would like to discuss the implications of this in relation to the recent court ruling, please contact Match Solicitors today.


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