Stop issuing fines to hard working families

Stop issuing fines to hard working families

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In 2013 changes made to the discretion that Head Teachers had to authorise term time holidays set off a chain of events that culminated in the decision of the Supreme Court in Isle of Wight Council -v- Platt. 

For over 70 years, the courts had interpreted 'regular attendance at school' as something akin to 'sufficiently frequently'.  The Supreme Court has ruled that this interpretation was wrong, reversing at least 5 decades of High court precedent and ruled that it now means 'in accordance with the school rules'.  This has the effect of elevating 'school rules' to a pseudo statute, without Parliamentary scrutiny.

When Parliament passed the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003 (introducing penalty notices in respect of truancy) they were specifically told that TRUANCY Penalty Notices would only be used as a quick and inexpensive means to address TRUANCY.  Now they are being used for ANY unauthorised absence and the Supreme Court has now made it possible for ANY breach, however minor, to result in a penalty notice being issued.  Even being a single minute late to school can, if schools and Local Authorities think it appropriate, be a reason to issue a £60 'fine' per parent per child.  That doubles if parents are unable to pay within 21 days.  It is now possible for unexpected traffic on the school run to result in a 'fine' of hundreds of pounds being imposed on a struggling family, with no right to pay by instalments or have their ability to pay considered. This often causes terrible financial hardship.

There is NO APPEALS process.  If you don't pay a Penalty Notice you get taken to Magistrates Court and get a criminal record.  Legal Aid is not available to parents in these cases so they inevitably have to plead guilty to avoid costs being awarded against them as it is a strict liability offence. This is a GRAVE injustice.

The criminal law in this area has become a complete postcode lottery.  In some areas of the country thousands of Penalty Notices are being issued for very minor infractions and in other areas none have ever been issued. That is NOT fair. 

This HAS to stop.  Truancy is a real problem that requires intervention, but the very great majority of these Penalty Notices are being issued to families whose children have EXCELLENT overall attendance.  

The evidence cited to support this draconian policy (DfE RR 171) has been shown to support the absolute opposite position.  Children who miss school for family holidays that have been authorised by the school do BETTER than children who miss ZERO days!  This policy is fundamentally wrong and MUST change!