Parents around the country await with baited breath whilst the Supreme Court mull over what ‘regular attendance’ at school really is. And if you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal (where have you been?) it’s because dad, Jon Platt , decided to challenge his local council – the Isle of Wight – over a fine they gave him for taking his daughter out of school for a family holiday.
The school’s policy stated that ‘regular attendance’ is classed as 90%, and even with their holiday, Jon Platt’s daughter was still in school 90% of the time . So, he argued – he shouldn’t be fined, because his child was still in school ‘regularly’ by the council’s very own standards; and the High Court agreed. Of course, it didn’t end there and the Isle of Wight council, who issued the original fine have appealed to the highest court in the land to try and overturn that decision.
But why all the big fuss – it’s just a few days holiday, right? Well, as well as the risk of being fined by your school or local council, the Department for Education has data that says a child’s chances of getting five GCSEs at grades A-C are reduced every day that child is away from school . So, basically, if you want good marks – then you need to go to school – every day.
Back in 2006, the guidelines over term time holidays said head-teachers could let children miss school for up to ten days for a family holiday in ‘special circumstances’. But in 2013, those rules were tightened up and children were no longer allowed to skip school for any reason, unless there were ‘exceptional circumstances’. However, the rules over whether you can skip school for a sunny holiday are ultimately up to your school and local council whether fines are issued.
Between September 2013 and August 2014, councils across the country, issued nearly 64,000 fines for ‘unauthorised absences’ . But whether you got one really was a postcode lottery, for example, in the 2015-2016 school year, Suffolk, issued 6,008 fines, but only 108 were issued in North Tyneside and parents in Richmond upon Thames were either really conscientious or very lucky because no fines were issued at all .
So, where does all this leave parents – apart from confused? Well, 35 councils have since changed their attendance policies; 28 have withdrawn fines that they’d already issued, and a few more are ‘reviewing’ what rules they currently have in place . The official advice is to check your school’s policy and local council website.
The National Association of Head Teachers have worked out that weekends and school holidays means that families have around 175 days off school. And what better way to spend those 175 days than by taking a fine-free holiday – perhaps a weekend road trip or take the family away to somewhere a bit more exotic? But wherever you decide to go, cover yourself for all eventualities and make sure you’ve got the family travel insurance sorted – and don’t forget to pack your toothbrush.