A father who refused to pay a fine for taking his six-year-old daughter out of school for a family trip to Florida has won a landmark British High Court ruling which looks set to force education chiefs to consider changing the law.
Jon Platt said later he had won a victory which would benefit hundreds of other parents facing similar penalties. Mr Platt said the case had cost him £13,000 (€16,500), describing it as “money well spent”.
However, a Department for Education source said attendance at school was “non-negotiable” and “we shall now look to change the law and strengthen statutory guidance”.
Mr Platt was fined by Isle of Wight Council after he took his family on the holiday, which included a visit to Walt Disney World, without permission from his child’s school.
He was originally fined £60. This was then doubled because of his refusal to pay.
The dispute went before Isle of Wight Magistrates’ Court in October when Mr Platt won the case.
The local authority appealed against the decision at the High Court in London.
Yesterday, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall dismissed the council’s challenge, ruling that the magistrates had not “erred in law” when reaching their decision.
The magistrates decided Mr Platt had “no case to answer” because no evidence had been produced to prove his daughter — who is now aged seven and can only be referred to as M for legal reasons — had failed to attend school “regularly”.
The two judges ruled the magistrates were entitled to take into account the “wider picture” of the child’s attendance record during the school year — M had an attendance rate of 92.3%.
They ruled the magistrates were not restricted, as the local authority had argued, to just considering her “0% attendance” when she was absent on the unauthorised holiday.
After the ruling, Mr Platt said outside court: “I am hugely relieved. I know that there was an awful lot riding on this — not just for me, but hundreds of parents.”
A British Department for Education source said: “We are clear that children’s attendance at school is non-negotiable and we shall now look to change the law.”
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