A Lancashire family law specialist says parents could be prosecuted on an unprecedented scale following a Supreme Court ruling over term time holidays.
The Supreme Court has ruled that parents who take their children out of school on holiday – even if their child has regular attendance – can be prosecuted if they do not receive permission from the head teacher.
This follows the case of a father who was fined £120 after taking his daughter on holiday during term time.
Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight was fined by the council but was backed by magistrates when he said his daughter had regular attendance and the trip was a once in a lifetime holiday.
However, the case reached the High Court after the council appealed and after losing the case again the council applied to the Supreme Court for permission to launch a final legal challenge.
The Supreme Court judges have ruled that Jon Platt should have paid a £120 fine for his daughter’s unauthorised absence.
The judges said he had shown a “blatant disregard of school rules” and that his approach had been a “slap in the face” to parents who play by the rules.
Gillian Graveson, partner at Birchall Blackburn Law and head of family law for the firm’s seven offices including Preston, said the ruling was significant.
“While I am not surprised at today’s ruling, as a parent myself I think a common-sense approach should be applied. This ruling makes it clear that if a parent refuses to pay a fine for allowing their child to be absent from school without permission even for a single day, they could face a prosecution.
“This will affect parents across Lancashire, many who have already made holiday bookings.
“If a child has great attendance throughout the year, is missing a couple of days at the end of term really going to have a huge impact on their education?”
According to guidelines, parents can only allow their child to miss school if they are ill, or if they have received advanced permission from the school.
Getting permission from the school requires making an application to the head teacher in advance, who will decide if the request will be granted.
Where, previously, head teachers could grant 10 days of authorised absence, now they are unable to grant any, except in exceptional circumstances.
Those who do take their children out of school risk receiving a fine of £60, which rises to £120 if paid after 21 days.
If the fine is not paid, parents can be prosecuted and could be fined up to £2,500 or receive a jail sentence of three months.
New figures show that more than 100 parents per day are being prosecuted for taking their children out of school.
According to the latest statistics provided by the Ministry of Justice, the number of people taken to court for unauthorised absences has surged by nearly two-thirds in just four years, with nearly 20,000 people now prosecuted annually.
Gillian added: “Parents will have a strong reaction to this ruling. I don’t think it will be long before we see another case similar in nature be brought to the fore once again.”