Isle of Wight Council vs Platt: father loses school term-time holiday appeal

In a long-running legal battle over his daughter’s school term-time holiday, Mr Platt has been found guilty of breaching the school’s attendance rules in the Supreme Court.

Mr Platt was issued with a £60 fixed penalty fine after taking his daughter out of school on holiday to Disney World in April 2015.

He missed the payment deadline and the Council doubled the fine to £120, which he refused to pay.

The Council prosecuted him for failing to ensure that his daughter attended school regularly, contrary to a section of the Education Act 1996.

Appearing before the local magistrates court, Mr Platt successfully argued there was no case to answer as the prosecution had failed to show that the child didn’t attend regularly.

Even with this and other absences, Mr Platt maintained his daughter’s attendance remained above 90% – the threshold for persistent truancy defined by the Department for Education.

Isle of Wight Council appealed this decision.

Two High Court judges upheld the local court’s ruling. But, in its judgement in April 2017, the Supreme Court disagreed.

It said the case depended on the meaning of the word ‘regularly’ in the Education Act 1996. There are, it said, three possible meanings:

  1. Evenly spaced
  2. Sufficiently often
  3. In accordance with the school's attendance rules

In this case, the Supreme Court argued that the definition of attending regularly was not in an “evenly spaced” or “sufficiently often” manner, but “in accordance with the attendance rules”.

It said:

“The circumstances of this case fall squarely into that breach of school rules. The Council has proved beyond reasonable doubt that the child was not attending school regularly on those dates of the holiday.”

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the Council’s appeal, and the case will now return to the Isle of Wight Magistrates Court for final judgement.

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