A father who refused to pay a fine for taking his daughter to Disney World in Florida during term time has had the punishment overturned.
Jon Platt, from the Isle of Wight, was taken to court after refusing to pay the £120 fine for taking his six-year-old daughter out of school in April this year.
Currently, courts can issue a fine of up to £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months to the parents of children who skip school.
Section 444 of the Education Act 1996 states: 'If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.'
There are a number of exemptions to the rule. For example, pupils are allowed to miss school in order to observe religious holidays.
However, in 2013 the Government told head teachers they could no longer authorise short-term absences for pupils to go on family holidays, leading to complaints from parents who found themselves forced to pay higher peak time holiday prices.
In a statement, the council said it took legal action based on ‘appropriate legislation, Department for Education regulations and guidance’.
Jon Platt argued that because the only days of school his daughter missed came during their eight-day holiday, she was still attending school 'regularly' and he had therefore committed no offence.
Isle of Wight magistrates' court agreed with Mr Platt, suggesting that other parents may be able to rely on the same argument to escape fines for unauthorised absences. Although the case does not set a legal precedent, councils will now be reluctant to impose fines on parents who remove their children from schools for a short time.
Later this month, Parliament will debate whether there should be an annual allowance of two weeks' leave during term time so that parents may take advantage of cheaper holiday periods.
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This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.