With the school holidays approaching parent’s should be reminded of the recent decision in the Supreme Court of Isle of Wight Council –v- Platt which was handed down last month.

This case concerned law contained at s444(1) Education Act 1996 around children of a compulsory school age and failing to attend at school regularly. The act states that parents of a child who fails to attend regularly will be guilty of an offence, which is at the first stage a fine but if this is unpaid, a criminal conviction.

The decision in Platt confirmed that the Education Act’s reference to “regularly” regarding attendance, means in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school and therefore overall attendance percentages are irrelevant.

In 2013 the guidelines for schools were amended making school policy’s on unauthorised absences tougher. Parents can only allow a child to be absent from school if the child is too ill to attend or the school has authorised the absence.

The decision of the court is consistent with the tough approach sought by the policy implemented and that requests for authorised absences during term time are likely to be met with some resistance.

If parents are looking to book holidays within term time then before they book they should officially request authorisation from the school. If they request the authorised absence and it is refused but still take their child out of school then they should expect to receive a fine from the Council which is payable within 21 days, otherwise the fine doubles. Parent’s should also be aware that ignoring the fine is also not an option, as if payment is not made then this constitutes a criminal offence for which the parent can, and is likely to be, prosecuted and can receive a custodial sentence of up to 3 months.

It is expected that schools will have more pressure to declare unauthorised absences by local Council’s given the recent cuts to budget, and fines will be pursued by the Council’s.

With the summer holidays fast approaching if you are looking to remove your child from school early to avoid the holiday hikes from providers, then you need to get your requests in early so that you have time to consider your options should your request be refused!

For separated parents this may be even more important as either parent incur an unauthorised absence then both parents can, and will, be fined and prosecuted for the same absence. Ignorance is unlikely to be accepted as a defence and so it is the responsibility of both parents to ensure that the child is always in school, unless they are too ill or the absence has been agreed with the school.

If you would like further information or assistance in Children matters following separation or difficulties then please contact Hollie Styles, a family lawyer based in Thursfields’ Stourport office on 01562 827517 or email to hstyles@thursfields.co.uk

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