Council drops 18 prosecutions over term-time holidays

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West Sussex County Council has dropped 18 prosecutions against parents who took their children on holiday during term time.

The cases were dropped following a recent highly publicised High Court case.

Jon Platt, of the Isle of Wight, had been fined £120 for taking his daughter to Florida but refused to pay.

Magistrates agreed and the Isle of Wight council appealed to the High Court where top judges ruled Mr Platt had no case to answer.

The decision left the door open for parents to appeal their own fines and saw a number of councils drop similar cases

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council confirmed it had dropped 18 court cases following the High Court ruling, but denied it had changed its policy towards such unauthorised absences. She said: “Our policy has not changed on children being taken out of school for holidays during term time.

“We look at all referrals for Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the child’s overall absences within the academic year and considering the impact on the child’s education.”

In this financial year, up to May 26, the council had issued 1,989 FPNs for holiday fines and 379 for other forms of unauthorised absences.

In 2013/14, the figures were 2,417 FPNs for holiday fines and 485 for other forms of unauthorised absences; in 2014/15, they were 2,757 and 611 respectively.

The spokesman said the council would welcome “further guidance” from the government on the matter adding that, in light of the High Court ruling “we have found it difficult to proceed with a small number of court cases due to a lack of clarity”.

The government’s advice regarding school absences states all requests are at the discretion of the headteacher but that they “should not grant leave of absence unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

Last week, Parliament debated a petition bearing 201,362 signatures that called for the government to “bring back the 10-day authorised absence” – though the government pointed out no such entitlement had ever existed in law. A spokesman said: “The misconception had been created by the previous allowance for headteachers to grant up to 10 days of leave for ‘special circumstances’.”

He added there was a “clear link” between children missing school and lower academic achievement.

The council spokesman said: “There are 175 days – weekends and school holidays – every year for parents to take holiday, so term time holidays should be avoided.”

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