Official statistics published this morning show the proportion of pupils taken out of school for family holidays rose in the school term immediately after a high court judgement which ruled in favour of a father who took his daughter on holiday in term time.
Jon Platt was fined £60 – raised to £120 when he did not pay the initial fine – by the Isle of Wight Council for taking his daughter to Florida, but magistrates ruled that he had no case to answer because she attended school regularly during the rest of the school year.
When the local authority took the case to the High Court in May 2016, Mr Platt won the backing of the senior judges.
The Department for Education statistics published today show that the percentage of pupils who missed school due to a unauthorised family holiday rose from 4.2 per cent in the autumn term 2015 to 5 per cent in the autumn term 2016.
The proportion of pupils who missed school due to authorised family holidays also increased – up from 1.1 per cent in the autumn term 2015 to 1.2 per cent in autumn term 2016.
'Treat trends with caution'
The Isle of Wight council appealed against the High Court judgement and, in April 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the right of a local authority to fine parents who take their children on holiday.
Judges said that the council was correct to fine Mr Platt and instructed the case was returned to the magistrates’ court.
The DfE says that the absence figures are the first that relate fully to the period after the high court judgement, but adds that “interpretation of any trends should be treated with caution due to the volatility of single term absence figures”.
The figures also show that overall absence rates for pupils have increased since last year, from 4.1 per cent in autumn 2015 to 4.3 per cent in autumn 2016, with the most common reason for absence being illness.
And more than one in 10 pupils (11.4 per cent) were persistently absent during autumn 2016 – up from 10.3 per cent in autumn 2015.