Million school pupils missed lessons in 2015-16 due to family holidays in term

Every extra day of school a child misses can affect their GCSE results
Every extra day of school a child misses can affect their GCSE results
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Around a million schoolchildren missed lessons last year after taking family holidays during term time, official figures suggest.

Around one in six pupils in England took at least a half day off for a trip in the 2015/16 academic year - with the vast majority doing so without getting permission from the headteacher.

The latest Government figures come amid continuing controversy about children being taken out of school for holidays.

A landmark legal battle between education bosses and a father who took his daughter on a term-time trip without permission is ongoing.

Ministers have argued that every extra day of school a child misses can affect their GCSE results.

Overall, there were 801,980 pupils in England's state primary, secondary and special schools (11.9%) with one or more sessions (half days) of absence due to unauthorised family holidays, and 223,080 students (3.3%) with at least one missed session due to agreed family breaks.

In 2014/15, 10.4% of pupils missed at least one session due to an unauthorised trip - meaning the numbers have increased, while 3.4% of pupils missed a half day due to an agreed trip, a slight fall year on year.

Illness is still the most common reason for children missing school, the Department for Education (DfE) statistics show.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "The rules are clear - children should not be taken out of school without good reason.

"Evidence shows that 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.

"A child who is absent also impacts teachers, whose lesson plans are disrupted by children missing large portions of teaching.

"That is why we have tightened the rules to put teachers firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and we are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence."

In January, the Supreme Court reserved judgment on a legal case between Isle of Wight Council, backed by the Education Secretary, and Jon Platt, who took his daughter out of school without permission for a seven-day trip to Disney World, Florida in April 2015.

The council prosecuted Mr Platt after he refused to pay a £120 penalty.

Local magistrates found there was no case to answer, and the council took its case to the High Court in London.

In a High Court ruling last May - the period covered by the latest statistics - Mr Platt was cleared of failing to ensure his child attended school regularly.

Two judges, Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, upheld the magistrates' decision and declared that Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90%.

The decision caused a surge in term-time bookings all over England.

The High Court ruling led to Isle of Wight Council appealing to the Supreme Court - the highest court in the land.