Government signals no retreat on term time holiday fines

The government this week confirmed its determination to enforce fines on parents who take children on holiday during term time without permission.

Schools minister Nick Gibb told MPs: “Children’s attendance at school is non-negotiable and we’ll take steps to secure that principle.”

He was responding to a debate on a petition demanding “No more school penalty fines, bring back the 10-day authorised absence” for parents withdrawing children for term-time holidays. He described the 200,000 people who signed the petition as “a small proportion of the parents of the 8.4 million school-age children in this country”.

The minister also confirmed government support for the Isle of Wight Council’s appeal to the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling in May. The High Court found father Jon Platt not liable for a fine for withdrawing his daughter on the grounds of her “regular attendance” at school.

Gibb said it was “a misconception” that parents were entitled to take children out of school prior to 2013 and claimed fines imposed since had “decreased the rate of absence due to term-time holidays by more than a third”.

He dismissed calls to “review how much holidays cost in and out of term time”, saying: “In a competitive market, it’s for businesses to decide their prices.”

The BBC reported a survey of 80 English councils that found 10 had dropped cases against parents and six suspended fines since the High Court ruling.

Gibb acknowledged the judgment had “created uncertainty”, but insisted it “does not establish [a level of attendance] regarded as regular [or] require councils to refund penalties”. He said: “The government will set out its next steps in due course.”

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