High Court judge warns parents over school-time holidays

Parents were given a wake up call last week about the consequences of taking their children on holiday during term time after a High Court judge said a mother’s decision to take her children on two unauthorised breaks was “inexcusable”.

The case was brought against a mother by Bromley Council, which claimed she had failed to secure her children’s “regular attendance” at their primary school. Bromley Magistrates Court originally ruled that she be acquitted, but last week the local authority successfully appealed against the ruling at the High Court.

The case was brought in the wake of strict DfES guidance which states that you should not expect your child’s school to agree to a family holiday during term time.

The case centred around two holidays taken without permission, totalling nine days’ absence. Although the Magistrates Court originally held that the absences were justified, Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that the holidays taken were “inexcusable”.

“Their absence for the equivalent of nine days on unauthorised holiday could lead to only one conclusion: that there had not been regular attendance,” he said.

Lord Justice Auld sent the case back to the magistrates with a “direction to convict” the mother – although indicated that no further action should be taken given the time that had elapsed since the original case was brought.

Under the Education Act 1996, children’s non-attendance at school can lead to a fine or in some cases to a prison sentence for the parent responsible.

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