Fined dad slams landmark truancy ruling

A dad fined for taking his son on a famous battlefield trip has slammed a landmark ruling by the UK's highest court.

Friday, 7th April 2017, 1:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 7:04 pm
Ben Pietersma with Andrew Lyons-Walker, who was been fined after their annual pilgrage to Holland, which saw them visit the site of the Battle of Arnhem, where Andrew's grandfather fought during the Second World War

Parents could now face a fine or prosecution if they take their children out of school for even half a day without permission, after five Supreme Court justices said it’s up to individual headteachers to decide what ‘regular’ attendance means.

Andrew Lyons-Walker, a 39-year-old taxi driver from Norbreck, said: “It boils down to how much of a farce the judicial system in this country has turned out to be.

“We have stuck up old fuddy-duddies running it who don’t have a clue what’s going on in the real world.”

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Jon Platt, who successfully challenged a conviction for taking his daughter on an unauthorised holiday during school term time

Mr Walker and his partner Rachel Hughes were told to pay £200 at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court after taking teenager Ben Pietersma to Holland in 2015.

Their two other children, who go to primary school and are often off at different times of the year from Ben because of term-time disparities, were not fined.

Mr Walker has now called on education chiefs to make it easier for parents to go on holiday during school breaks – and said the latest ruling will not stop him from taking his children away during term-time.

“It will make us even more determined to do what we want,” he added.

Jon Platt, who successfully challenged a conviction for taking his daughter on an unauthorised holiday during school term time

“Every single school holiday in the land, for state-run schools at least, needs to be at the exact same time.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling, against dad Jon Platt, who took his daughter to Disney World during school term-time, is expected to have a major impact on parents and schools across the country.

The panel of judges allowed an appeal by Isle of Wight education chiefs against an earlier ruling that Mr Platt had not acted unlawfully.

Section 444 of the Education Act states: “If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.”

And the judges declared Parliament’s intention was the word ‘regularly’ means ‘in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school’.

This effectively means mums and dads should not take their child out of lessons at any point without the headteacher’s approval.

The judges pointed out there are exceptions to that rule, which include religious holidays and sickness .

Mr Platt said he has ‘no intention’ of pleading guilty when his case goes back before magistrates next week.