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High Court Rules It’s Legal to Take Children Out of School in Term Time

A crowd funded test case against the government imposed fines for families who take their children out of school to go on holiday has resulted in victory today for parents.

The verdict appears to mean families can take their children on ski holidays in term time next winter without risking a council fine and potentially, ultimately, imprisonment if they failed to pay the fine.

It also means families can take advantage of lower prices and less crowded slopes by being allowed to take their children on physically and spiritually healthy and educational ski trips outside of the main Christmas/New Year, February half term and Easter school holiday periods.

The case in the High Court was brought by parent Jon Platt’s who refused to pay a £60 fine for taking his six-year old daughter out of school in a trip to Florida.  Mr Platt won his original case, appealing against the fine, in the local court, but the local authority appealed the decision to the High Court.

Prosecutions for taking children out of school in term time have been made under section 444 of the Education Act, which stipulates that parents are guilty of an offence if they fail to ensure their child “attends regularly” at school.

Mr Platt argued that the law does not require 100% attendance and said that where children normally attend school regularly, taking them on holiday for a week does their education, “no harm at all.”

Exactly what ‘regularly’ constitutes has not been specified, however a child who misses 10% of school time during a school year (about four weeks in total) may be considered to be truanting if they are not ill.

He said he refused to pay the fine as he did believe he had committed a criminal offence

Mr Platt took his daughter on a winter holiday to Lapland in February and was issued with a second £60 fine for that.

The controversial ban on taking children on holiday in term time from schools in England and Wales was introduced in 2013 by the coalition Conservative / Lib Dem government and has been controversial ever since.  Previously head teachers could grant up to two weeks off school for family holidays but this was changed to ‘exceptional circumstances’ and the fining regime began. The law does not apply in Scotland.

It’s unclear yet whether the government will appeal the decision or whether the more than 60,000 parents who have paid fines over the past three years, often making an economic calculation and deciding to criminalised to save up to half of their holiday price against travelling in school holidays,  will be entitled to their money back.