A father who won a landmark legal case over taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday has criticised Kirklees Council’s ‘secretive’ policy towards fining parents.
And Jon Platt says the council is one of the top finers of parents in the country.
Jon Platt caused a sensation in May this year when he won a High Court ruling after he refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Disney World in Florida in April 2015.
Her school on the Isle of Wight had refused permission for the trip but he took her anyway and she missed seven days of lessons.
He was issued with a £60 fixed penalty fine which was doubled after he refused to pay.
When the council asked the High Court to clarify whether a seven-day absence amounted to a child failing to attend regularly it upheld a decision by magistrates that he had no case to answer.
After the court’s decision the government said it would consider making alterations to the law.
Parents taking their children out of school during term time so they can enjoy cheap family holidays has become a major issue nationally in recent years with many parents complaining that the cost of going away in the school holidays can be as much as four times more than during term time.
But since 2013 tougher government regulations mean headteachers can grant leave of absence during term time only in “exceptional circumstances.”
And the government claims that there is clear evidence “that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of gaining good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances.”
Since the ruling Mr Platt has now set up an online business monitoring local authorities’ handling of such matters.
In a recent post he said of Kirklees: “This local authority are a ‘top ten finer’. They have issued over 3,000 penalty notices this year compared to 2,390 last year.
“In response to my question ‘Has this local authority changed or does it plan to change its policy in respect of issuing these fixed penalties since the decision of the High Court on May 13 in IW Council v Platt.’
“They said: ‘The council continues to consider each penalty notice request on a case by case basis and has not changed its policy.
“Kirklees Council will continue to issue Penalty Notices in line with Government Legislation’.
“Given that they were issuing significantly MORE fines in the months leading up to the High Court decision in May (April 2016 was 150% higher than April 2015) we’d expect, if there had been no change in policy that this would have continued AFTER the High Court decision on May 13. In realty the numbers are DOWN 65% in June July and August on the same three months last year.
“Unquestionably, there has been a change in policy but this local authority seems to want to keep it a secret.
They don’t want parents to know that they will no longer be fined for a term time holiday if their child’s attendance is otherwise good.
“They are hoping that fear and ignorance will ‘keep parents in line’. Bad, bad decision, Kirklees.
“You are legally required to publish your policy on school attendance and you can’t secretly amend the policy without publishing those material changes.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said: “We continue to consider each penalty notice on a case by case basis.
“That policy has not changed. The policy is available on the website, and we will continue to issue the penalty notices in line with the legislation in place.”