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Wednesday April 5, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The Supreme Court has overturned a High Court ruling that found in favour of a father who took his daughter on a term-time holiday. It has implications for parents who take their kids out of school for a ski holiday. UPDATED

The judges ruled that regular attendance in school had to be in keeping with rules of the school.

The government had insisted that pupils should not be able to be withdrawn from school without permission and the ruling now clarifies the position.

It follows a ruling by the High Court that a father, Jon Platt, was entitled to take his daughter out of school for a holiday as she had a good attendance record.

See here for our story from the time.

And see here as we covered the case at the Supreme Court earlier in the year.

The 5 Supreme Court Justices who heard the case were Lord Neuberger, Lady Hale, Lord Mance, Lord Reed and Lord Hughes.

Their decision was unanimous.

"Unauthorised absences have a disruptive effect, not only on the education of the individual child but also on the work of other pupils," said the deputy president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale.

"If one pupil can be taken out whenever it suits the parent, then so can others. Any educational system expects people to keep the rules. Not to do so is unfair to those obedient parents who do keep the rules, whatever the costs or inconvenience to themselves," added Lady Hale.

Mr Platt said parents would find it "utterly shocking" that they needed the "permission of the state" to decide on school attendance.

"You are not the final arbiter of what's right for your child," he added.

It will have significant implications for parents who wish to take their child out of school for a ski holiday and the consequences will be felt by the family ski tour operators.

Mt Platt had said earlier in the week that he was not confident about the outcome.

"Keep your fingers crossed for me," he said on Facebook.

The Supreme CourtThe Supreme Court















The case against Mr Platt will now be returned to the local magistrates court, where his plea of having no case to answer due to his daughter's 92% attendance at school will be rejected.

What's your view of the ruling? Feel free to comment over on the Facebook Ski Club page.

Head teachers' leader Malcolm Trobe backed the court's decision, saying that it ended a "period of uncertainty" over term-time holidays.

But Liberal Democrat education spokesman, John Pugh, said the ruling was "disappointing" and called for more "flexibility" for families.

"Many employees have no choice when to take their holidays... Others simply cannot afford to go on holiday at peak times, when the cost of holidays goes through the roof," he said.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "We are pleased the Supreme Court unanimously agreed with our position - that no child should be taken out of school without good reason.

"As before, head teachers have the ability to decide when exceptional circumstances allow for a child to be absent but today's ruling removes the uncertainty for schools and local authorities that was created by the previous judgment.

"The evidence shows every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil's chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances."

For more on the story see this article on the BBC.

We conducted a 24 hour poll on Twitter to gauge reaction (shown below):


There has been some reaction to the PlanetSKI story and the case over on the Facebook Ski Club page:

David Letts When my kids were small, we often took them skiing during term time. The school said it was great as they were learning a skill and experiencing a different culture. They also said that had we been going to Spain to sit on a beach and eat chips, then the answer would have been No!

Phil Brown It falls to the school and headteacher to decide what constitutes an acceptable absence. Headteachers trying to climb the ladder or wanting to make their school appear more successful (apparently the attendance levels contribute to this) will not allow absence whereas others may. The interesting thing is that there are many children spending most of the winter away at academies etc. with the blessing of their school. In many cases, the children return ahead of their peers academically. Then there's the independent schools which allow their pupils a complete term away to attend clubs and academies but with the proviso that they maintain their place in school. The biggest problem is that state schools depend on kids being there in order to run the multitude of unnecessary tests and exams rather than actually educate them and give them a good footing on life.

Ross Kershaw I agree with you Phil on almost everything apart from schools wanting to keep kids in school for performance tables. I worked for Ambition Race academy in 2010-11 and was the school liaison for the UK teachers. Almost every child returned ahead of their school work. These pupils have a natural drive and willingness to do well in everything. I'm now back working in one of the top state schools in Scotland and we regularly have 2-3 pupils away doing training weeks. We have 1 in the Scottish team, two in the British Freestyle team and one in the British team (for age groups) and our HT is great at allowing time out of school. (He also gave me 5months sabbatical to do my season!) so, as you said it is fully up to the individual school

Richard Brumby A common sense approach is needed, not a one size fits all policy. For instance, when I was growing up my father was in the RAF, he could very rarely get time off during the school holidays from what I remember. Things like this have to be taken into account and not this ham fisted, rules are rules, rubbish.

Alun Hughes As part of my role in a school at the moment being an Attendance Officer I am actually glad that this decision has been made.

If schools use the current DfE guidance correctly there shouldn't be a problem. Attendance only becomes a concern if it falls below 96%: which equates to 6 full days of absence approximately. Schools have to report it to their local authority if it falls below 92%: which equates to 10 days of absence approximately.

This case came about because this gentleman's daughter had missed 10 days of school to go on holiday with his estranged wife. He then, a few weeks later, decided to take her out of school for a further 8 days to go on holiday with him.

If parents are sensible, they should still be able to take their children out for a week/5 days without a problem. The Head also still has discretion in exceptional circumstances, but these are limited.

It is parents who abuse the system who need to be careful.

Stewart Johnston Holidays are luxuries, not necessities. Can't afford to take the kids this year, then save for next. Make them enjoy it more, and maybe have a better understanding of money.

Russell Starkie Agree with you. There was always something here about cheap holidays ahead of a kids education and overall respect for the school, it's timetable and teachers. All a bit of a waste of the courts time !!!

Tom Wake Stewart Johnston Ture, if you think that the only benefit children are getting from, for instance a week's skiing is a week's break. I would suggest they are likely to learn life skills which the school system seems incapable of teaching many youngsters. Should these kind of life lessons and expansion of culture be restricted to the kids of the wealthy?

Caroline Simonds I used to think that it was ridiculous to stop parents taking YOUNG children out of school for things, especially if it was for a beneficial trip (and a happy family holiday that they couldn't afford during school holidays probably falls into that category). My daughter missed quite a lot of school for ski racing, although we could never afford to actually send her away to an academy for a whole term, and as Phil Brown points out, she always came back ahead of her peers, having been able to work more quickly through some work that she found easy, and getting extra help with things that she found more difficult. HOWEVER when we had this debate a few years ago a few teachers pointed out that this causes the teachers extra work. Franki's school and teachers were very supportive and helpful, but they did have to prepare the work for her and we remain extremely grateful for the extra help and effort that they put into supporting her (she did at least repay the school by helping the school to win a lot of school's ski trophies!). SO..... I do think that kids should be allowed time out of school for beneficial things BUT we should spare a thought for the teachers who have to try to maintain the education standards of those children and the class as a whole. One or two six year olds taking the odd week here and there probably doesn't matter, but where do you draw the line? The teachers pointed out that if they have a class of 30 and are constantly trying to help children catch up on topics missed the week before it makes their over stretched working day almost impossible..... Don't shoot the messenger, just trying to present a balanced view.
Having said that..... I DON'T buy the argument that it damages the kids education, even at A level, BUT there does need to be someone able and available to help them to catch up. This debate seems to be about UNAUTHORISED absence so I am assuming that the teachers won't have provided the work in advance, but even for AUTHORISED absence, someone has to have the time to get the work together.

Jeremy Warren My wife is in primary education, and sees at first hand the disruption holidays during term time cause. For some kids, and it is often those from less well off backgrounds - but not exclusively, that take the time off because of lower prices are actually the ones that would benefit the most from extra tuition - not less. Selfishly I would agree with some of the other comments about the value and enhancement from a skiing holiday as opposed to a week on the Spanish Costas. However it is all too easy to fall in the two tier policy trap that would become a political nightmare for headteachers to resolve with parents. Also I don't seem to recall much of this 40+ years ago when I was at school. The price of holidays still went up during school holidays, we just didn't have luxury holidays that was all.

Steven Weare As I said to a multitude of customers... your kids probably learn more from being in a foreign culture for a week doing something very active than they do at school in any case. Nanny State :)

Bryce Cooper so look at home schooling for a group of 8 kids ..

Ron Evans Skiing or any holiday doesn't mean children are absorbed in a fgn culture. Most complain if they don't get English speaking instructors, moan about the food unless it's what they get at home and expect everyone to speak English. Let's not use this tenuous arguement when all they are doing is trying to find a cheap deal when there's less demand for flights and accommodation.

Bryce Cooper For me the measure is the attendance levels and ability levels. IF 95% attendance and above why not take kids out for 1 week it would not affect them. The uproar has been when kids have a very low attendance then the Headteacher stops them. But the papers do not report those facts.

Frank Atherton Stupid Stupid Stupid. The nanny state again taking parenting decisions out of the hands of parents.

Luke Rees I have 2 young kids and although a selfish part of me feels aggrieved that we cannot take them out of school for ski trips (and every holiday we would like!) I also appreciate that it will be disruptive beyond just the time out for that child. My parents took me out of school for a month when i was 12 (just before senior school) and I was made to keep a diary as we travelled around Canada - coincidentally I am now a travel writer..... If time away is correctly managed it can be beneficial. In an ideal world it needs to be a child by child basis, looking at attendance and whether they are ahead of where they should be. But the reality is that would lead to too much of a grey area.

Luke Rees Just a thought, but 92% attendance means this guys daughter was off nearly 1 in every 10 days. That is a day off every 2 weeks which to me seems unacceptable attendance anyway....

Caroline Simonds I think I read that he took the kid out for a 10 day holiday and then again for the Disney trip.... might have got that wrong, but it is disruptive for the WHOLE class not just the kid involved.... and two unauthorised holidays in one school year....... as you say 92% attendance isn't helpful to teachers or the kids.

Luke Rees Caroline Simonds I didn't realise he took her for 10 days and they'd already had another holiday. It is behaviour like this that ruins it for the responsible parents who may with to take their kids out for a week every 2 or 3 years.

Pete Peterson Move to Canada. I took our daughter to Europe for 3 weeks while she was in grade 6. School was very pleased she got to learn something first hand

Luke Rees Funny enough I had a month out of school to visit Canada when i was 12. I was made to keep a diary which became a school project, these days I am a travel writer.

Pete Peterson My daughter spent a week in Iceland. She played with new lambs, rode Icelandic horses & met many relatives. She also went to Venice, Pompei, Siena, Naples, Milan & Zurich.Her knowledge of history, geography and languages skyrocketed. That is not something that could be taught in a classroom.

David Bateman Keep them at school please or bang go my cheap out of season skiing weeks 😂😂

Adrian Sturrock Just hand in your £120 cheque with your note to the school stating your holiday dates. It's a hell of a lot cheaper to buy their allegiance than a family holiday during school holiday time.

Alun Hughes Think about it Adrian. Your child can be off school for up to 6 days before it becomes a concern. Provided your child has not missed any school due to sickness, or anything else prior, just take them. Keep it quiet, don't advertise the absence as a holiday (including your child), send in a letter stating that they were absent due to illness.

Odile Churchward-Gogniat and when your kid comes back all suntanned and with goggle marks? What I find most disturbing is that you would ask your child to officially lie to his teachers- example???

Michelle Ryall Never works, social media, holiday photos , suntans and their mates always let the cat out of the bag. Pay the fine, easier option.

Adrian Sturrock I agree - and always would

Adrian Sturrock I think I would just say that I'm not interested in their rules

Lorna Hunt Coming from a generation that never went on holidays during term time as we were governed by factory shut downs (& then it was a U.K. based caravan hol), I think I still ended up as a fairly rounded, sensible & able member of the community. I didn't have kids so can't have a full view but this does seem to be about the haves & have nots & the guy in question is being somewhat bloody minded. If you decide to take your kids in term time for the 'social benefits' then I say it's basically pay up or shut up. Think yourselves very lucky you are able to offer your kids these opportunities as there are more these days that can't than can.

Lindsay Boyce I disagree, it's ok for the school to take kids out for ski trips, trips to London, Amsterdam, adventure residential. Our school even stopped school work to prep for a play in March!! My son had no homework for 2 weeks for that! I don't expect teachers to catch up the work, extra can be sent home for us to do. There's research out there reports the huge cognitive benefits of winter sports for children. I also think if it's exceptional circumstances such as a death, wedding of overseas relatives etc there shouldn't be fines. Think it should be judged on a case by case basis

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