Court victory for Lancaster parents after kids miss school for holiday in Florida

Two Lancaster parents have successfully won a court battle after they were fined for taking their son out of school for a holiday in Florida.

Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 2:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:13 pm

The couple, who did not wish to be named, asked for their two boys, aged eight and 12 at the time, to miss school at Easter in 2014.

The school holidays of the boys’ two schools did not match, meaning the eldest would miss a day of learning and his brother would miss nine days. The 12-year-old was given permission by his school’s head, but the younger boy was refused.

As a result, his parents were both sent £60 fines, which doubled to £120 each when they refused to pay.

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The child’s grandad said: “I wanted to book a holiday for my whole family to mark my retirement. We contacted both schools and explained the situation. The secondary school said it was fine as he would only miss a day but the head at the primary school said no straight away.”

The family went on holiday regardless, and on their return the parents were sent penalty notices.

The boy’s grandad, a 62-year-old former police officer, said: “My son tried to discuss the issue with the school on several occasions but it was declined. In due course they were summoned to court.”

But as a result of a high profile High Court judgement which saw Isle of Wight dad Jon Platt win a case against his child’s school in May, Lancaster magistrates agreed there was no case to answer.

“They looked at Jon Platt’s case which said that courts could look at attendance over a whole school year,” the grandad said. “My grandson’s attendance was 95 per cent, which is above the Lancashire County Council target.

“The legislation was designed to target persistant truants.

“To me it’s just a money-making scam. The whole system is a joke and it’s not a fair system across the country.

“We went on holidayin the most expensive Easter period. We didn’t do it to save money, it was just the fact that one of the schools had different dates for their Easter break.”

The grandad added that parents are not entitled to legal aid to challenge the fines.

“That can stop a lot of people from doing it,” he said. “My son felt very strongly about this and he paid for his own solicitor which cost him more than the fine would have done.

“It was the principle and I am very proud of them for standing up for it.

“Hopefully other people in Lancashire will see that just because they are giving out fines, it doesn’t make it right and each case should be looked at on its individual merits.”

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “We encourage schools to work closely with parents to reduce unauthorised absences. Our aim throughout is not to punish parents but to ensure that children and young people attend school and receive a good education.”