Mark Whitehead 18 May 2016

Council leader defends term-time school holiday battle

Council leader defends term-time school holiday battle

The council at the heart of a storm over a parent taking his child out of school for a holiday has stood by its decision to pursue its legal battle all the way to the High Court.

Jonathan Bacon, leader of Isle of Wight Council, said the authority had followed guidance and directions issued by the Department for Education to improve school results.

He welcomed the Department for Education's response to the ruling that it would now consider strengthening statutory guidance to schools and local authorities on absence from schools.

But he said attendance at school was 'inextricably linked' with attainment and the authority would continue its drive to improve educational results until they were among the best in the country.

Last week parent Jon Platt won a High Court victory after refusing to pay a £60 fine imposed by Isle of Wight council for taking his children out of school for a week's holiday in Florida.

Judges dismissed the council's challenge to a ruling in favour of Mr Platt by local magistrates and said they were right to take the 'wider picture' into account.

The Local Government Association said the ruling showed a 'blanket ban' on parents taking their children out of school for holidays was unenforceable and called for 'a sensible solution whereby every family has the option to spend time together'.

Cllr Bacon said: 'Having reflected on the case over the weekend I stand by the decision to bring it before the High Court.

'We had sought a clear binding ruling to give clarity for parents, schools, the council and the courts in relation to unauthorised absence from school.

'While I was surprised that this clarity was not forthcoming in the judgement of the High Court on Friday, the resultant expression means that the Isle of Wight Council was justified in taking this case to the High Court.'

Councillor Bacon said the 'absolute need to maintain and improve educational outcomes' was at the heart of the case.

The Isle of Wight had seen steady improvement in its educational outcomes over the past two years following a period of historically low standards compared to other areas in the country and was determined to achieve continued improvement until its educational standards were among the best.

He said encouraging and upholding attendance was inextricably linked with school attainment and 'should be both fundamental and at the core of any new approach.'

He would ask the Department for Education to take full account of the views of parents, teachers and educational professionals in its review of the legislation.

'In the meantime the council will continue to implement the government's existing statutory guidance around attendance until further clarification is received from the Department for Education but the council will have to take into account when deciding if enforcement action is warranted that in this particular case the High Court ruled that 90 per cent was regular attendance.'

 
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