Schools minister Nick Gibb has announced that despite a recent High Court ruling, schools in the United Kingdom should continue to follow the rules that fine parents over their children’s unexplained absences.
Headteachers at schools throughout the country have been told they should ignore a recent high court ruling that overturned a fine that had been assessed to a family who took an unauthorized vacation during regular school time.
Nick Gibb told schools that he was “disappointed” in the ruling, going on to say that they should continue to follow the current regulations pertaining to fining parents.
“The high court’s judgment did not establish a hard and fast rule… ” Gibbs wrote. “Instead a decision will have to depend on the individual facts of each case.”
The High Court ruled in favor of parent Jon Platt, who took his daughter out of school on the Isle of Wight last year in order to go on vacation with her family during the regular term time, despite the school refusing to authorize the trip. Platt won rulings in both the magistrates court and the High Court in London, writes Richard Adams for The Guardian.
The Isle of Wight Council was unsure as to whether a child being absent for seven days in a row would amount to a failure to regularly attend school. However, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirwall dismissed this concern in their ruling, which stated that the magistrate had the power to consider the “wider picture” involved in each child’s attendance record.
Many are concerned that the ruling would cause an end to the new rules introduced by the Department for Education in 2013, which mandated that headteachers must authorize absences during term time, expect for “exceptional circumstances” such as a funeral. Prior to this, headteachers had the power to authorize as much as two weeks of absences for students who were in good standing with their attendance.
After the ruling last month, the Isle of Wight local authority announced plans to appeal. Nick Gibb formally requested the move on May 13. In the event that an appeal is granted, the department has said that it will request to be involved in the proceedings, going on to say that it would like to take the lead in the appeal.
On Facebook, Platt was quick to express his displeasure at the news: “UNBELIEVABLE!! The Isle of Wight council, apparently on the Instructions of the DfE, have JUST announced a few minutes ago an appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land! This is absolutely outrageous. A HUGE waste of tax payers money on an issue that is beyond any doubt. Utterly shocked.”
Gibb said that although vacations are full of enriching experiences for children, the school year has been specifically created in order to offer parents the breaks necessary for vacations without having to interrupt their child’s education. He added that it should be up to individual schools to take a closer look at the specific details behind each request, and to make a decision as to whether or not to allow the vacation, as they are the ones who truly know their students.
While parents who had received fines are now pushing for local authorities to remove the penalties, Gibb said the department would most likely ignore the requests.
Local authority data show 64,000 fines imposed due to unauthorized absences between September 2013 and August 2014.
Parents complain that holidays cost less if taken during the school year, as summer vacations can cost as much as four times those taken during other times of the year. However, the government maintains that evidence exists suggesting that each day of missed school can affect a student’s chance of earning GCSEs, which can help to increase their chances of professional success in life.