Jon Platt school holiday fines case: High Court ruling revealed (updated)

Find out whether Isle of Wight father Jon Platt was right to take his child, who had a 94% attendance record, out of school in term time for a family holiday. Today’s High Court decision could make it a landmark case with a massive impact across the country.

high court and london buses

As reported yesterday, the Isle of Wight council and Isle of Wight father, Jon Platt have been attending the High Court in London this morning (Friday).

Last year Isle of Wight magistrates said Mr Platt did not have a case to answer for non-payment of school absence fines, after taking his daughter out of school during term time for a family holiday. Mr Platt argued that section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996 states that children must attend school regularly and that his daughter’s 94% attendance record fell within those guidelines.

The council subsequently applied to the High Court for clarification on the definition of ‘regular attendance’.

The ruling
According to Nick Wallis – who reports for BBC1’s The One Show, Channel 5, ITV News – in his summing up the judge stated the “definition of regular is not absolute” going on to add, “It is a question of fact and degree”.

He did not accept the idea that full time education equates to 100% attendance or that any unauthorised absence is criminal.

The Judge upheld Isle of Wight magistrates decision that Jon Platt had no case to answer.

Jon Platt’s costs of £14,631 will now have to be paid by the Isle of Wight council.

Nick asked Jon Platt’s barrister if this ruling has changed the law. He replied, “Sort of”.

Bacon: Ruling “created massive uncertainty”
Cllr Jonathan Bacon, Leader of Isle of Wight Council, said:

“This case was always about seeking clarification on this matter and unfortunately today’s ruling has created massive uncertainty and cast a shadow of doubt over the policies of schools and local authorities across the country.

“The Department for Education had outlined what it considered to be ‘regular’ attendance, which was that children should attend school every day, and it is under that assumption that we acted. It is also clear that attendance and educational attainment are intertwined, however today’s ruling may be taken to imply that parents can take children out of school on holiday for up the three weeks every year. This will clearly have a detrimental effect on the education of those children, the rest of their class and their teachers.

“I’m very disappointed about the failure to give clear guidance today. We need to consider the impact of this on the Island but it is clear it will also have an affect across the country. We will be pressing the Department for Education to urgently consider creating clear legislation on this matter for the benefit of parents, schools and local authorities alike.”

Live reporting from the court
Catch up with the proceedings through Nick’s excellent updates below:

14.30 Comment from council leader added

Image: bensutherland under CC BY 2.0

Friday, 13th May, 2016 12:53pm



Filed under: Education, Island-wide, Isle of Wight Council, Isle of Wight News, Top story

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69 Comments on "Jon Platt school holiday fines case: High Court ruling revealed (updated)"

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Sam Ellis

So how much did this cost the idiots who run our council absolute muppets. Well done Jon Platt.

Suzanne Bodenham

Absolutely Sam Ellis, our council, who are nearly bankrupt, what a total waste of time and money. Someone needs to resign… Well done Jon!


How much has this cost the council? Why on earth they chose to pursue this expensive folly at a time when they have have no money is an absolute scandal.
Surely the politician responsible for this national charade and local disgrace should resign.


I agree, someone at the Council should resign for making this ludicrous decision. And well done Jon for sticking to your guns. IW Council have really shown themselves up with this one. Funny thing is, when the schools are closed for a ‘snow day’ or training day, at the expense of the children’s education and causing hassle for working parents, that’s a different matter…


Common sense has won out.

Now how do the parents who have paid the fines stand on this? Will the council have to repay them?


Talk about a self-inflicted wound..


we know how much Jon Platts legal costs were, but how much have our IWC incurred? What are their costs? I am sure they won’t be cheap.
why did we vote for these muppets?


Let us hope that they now see sense and aren’t stupid enough to appeal the High Court’s decision.


Hi what about school teacher training days schools should be fined for those days of add them up a weeks holiday .days added over the year Amy.


The thing is, we didn’t vote for the people who make the decisions to pursue this in the High Court. These sorts of decisions are (most likely) made by the senior legal team at the council.

I would question the legal team (to right at the top) at the Council on the advise given to our local authority and question whether that team is fit for purpose.


They cannot even pay for School Crossing Patrols to get children safely to school.Total waste of money this case going to High Court.


A decision of this nature would have to be agreed by a politician.
If that wasn’t the case then the question ‘who the blazes is running the show?’ hones sharply into view….


The coverage is quite interesting. Love the way Jon Platt’s barrister used the IWC’s 100% attendance argument against them:

“if court accepts IoW’s submission then half a day’s absence or being late can now be a criminal offence”.


Steve Goodman

First; thank you and well done Jon, for being responsible for a useful legal reform.

Given the national importance of this, it would be fairer to taxpayers if our government paid for the costs of the case.


“if court accepts IoW’s submission then half a day’s absence or being late can now be a criminal offence”

Was that a flypast by the Porcine Air Force I just saw……

Wise words

Well done to Jon. The council have wasted a lot of money on this case. I now hope the council learns from this (ha ha) and looks at the way they issue fines In the future. I personally think they should base it on overall attendance throughout the year if that is below 90% then a fine is issued.


I see this is now the headline on the BBC News front page.

I hesitate to write this but I think you have to consider the wider implications of this judgement. Over 100,000 parents have been fined for taking their kids out of school on unauthorised absence throughout England. The IOW magistrates ruling had profound implications not only for IOW but for every education authority in England. One consequence of the high court ruling is that various parents may well… Read more »
Oh Jonathan, don’t take things so literally. It doesn’t mean that families can now take their children on 3 week holidays each year during term time. The way I’ve read it is that children should be able to have 90%+ attendance including sickness and taken holidays and not be worried that a bill for £60 will turn up on their doormat. If a pupil historically has a… Read more »
phil jordan


The total school days are (approx) 195 for the year.

To achieve 90% plus attendance you would need to have no less than (approx) 175 days attendance.

That appears to suggest that an unauthorised absence of (approx) 20 days could be taken in one go…..?

(that’s a day short of three weeks, I accept)


Actually, it’s 4 weeks.

Unless kids start going to school at the weekend.


I only hope that Jonathan Bacon will now have the decency to resign, him and his fellow independents are obviously well out of their depth when it comes to running the island. Perhaps they ought to stick to going on protest marches, at least that doesn’t cost us any more than the ferry fare, and that is bad enough.


Don’t be silly. Someone had to do it. At least the IoW council was brave enough to stick it’s neck above the parapet.

phil jordan


running the island….? out of our depths….?

Have you forgotten the utter chaos the previous administration left education on this Island which resulted in the Government stepping in June 2013…..?

I take it you do extend your comments to that administration as well….?


(PJ) Isn’t the academy system still in chaos after two years of your administration?

The previous administration and IWCA can be dismissed as being just faithful lapdogs of Tory Central Office and ministers.


Indeed. I recall the farcical “consultation ” over which secondary schools should close…..

phil jordan
suruk: Over one local authority school…we have no authority over academies…. However, we still run excess places for the overall school capacity on the Island in our secondary schools…. the impact of that is reduced government funding (around £4700 pp per year) to cover costs for establishments that are capable of holding around 1600 – 2000 more pupils. The suggestion of school was not farcical whatsoever…it fitted… Read more »
phil jordan

yes…. it is cicero….

Are you aware of the Councils authority over academies…?


Oh yes! It is non-existent!

But then did not the Government step in in 2013?

So we know whom to blame, Gove Morgan and the Tory IWC.

Absolutely Phil, I agree that both your LibDem and Conservative predecessors have a lot to answer for. However, I am deeply disappointed at the inability of the current administration to recognise that the cost and inconvenience of ferry travel is integral to the problems that the island now faces. Whatever the merits of fixed links, fixed ferries etc. I utterly deplore the failure of the IWC to… Read more »
phil jordan


thanks…. especially for the clarity.

What sort of approaches do you think the Council could make to this private company ?

We know that the MP has tried and met with little success over the (alleged) mon/duopoly … where do you think we should move with this now….?

I do not actually disagree with you about the ferries and our economy etc, by the way.


Phil, we’ll have that discussion elsewhere. I don’t want to detract any further from the news story by side tracking. I have your Council contacts. Regards,Tim


Cllr Jordan – you can’t blame the previous administration for everything and forever.
This is your messy bed. End of story.

phil jordan
tyke: Nothing messy here tyke. You may not have noticed the DofE have just released a press briefing saying they will: “now look to change the legislation. We also plan to strengthen statutory guidance to schools and local authorities”. Our attempts to get the DofE to intervene last year have finally paid off….. By the way, I will continue to point out the actions of the previous… Read more »
Whereas I agree that the previous bunch of losers did in fact screw up our Education system to a horrendous degree, I fail to see what any of their actions have to do with this debacle? Todays question is, WHY have our Council spent so much of our non existent budget chasing something that should have been left alone after the Magistrates court? The legal costs alone… Read more »
phil jordan
davimel: No, I accept there is no connection on this matter. However, the situation as left by the Magistrates meant trying to answer (for example) the following questions: What the rules are on school attendance now? Should children be able to be absent without excuse or reason? If so for how long? For how long can a parent remove their child from school for an unauthorised holiday?… Read more »
The previous system worked perfectly well. It was up to the school to decide if an absence would be beneficial or detrimental to the student and/or their classmates and grant or deny it as appropriate. The school, if it is performing it’s role correctly, should be perfectly aware of the potential effects you mention and is best placed to make that decision. A blanket ban is ridiculous,… Read more »

Would the cowardly downvoter care to explain why they think that a blanket ban is preferable to those that know the students and their needs the best (their teachers and parents) deciding what is best for them?


I don’t see how a trip to Disneyland could in any way be more beneficial to a child than attending school.


It seems that Jonathan Bacon didn’t attend school long enough to learn the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ :-)


On holiday that day? :-)) However, I can confirm that missing school does have a long-term affect.

In the Dark Ages, I missed a couple of foundation lessons on science and maths and as a result I have never really understood them since! Thank goodness my career led me to the side of arts, languages and literature.

Island Monkey
Political naivety, you constantly claim everything is the fault of the previous administration, or the present government. You claim you have no money, but can spend tens of thousands pursuing an Island parent through the highest court in the land. When you lose you carp and protest. Do you not realise how this all looks? I would say the indie administration is a calamity, this, the PFI… Read more »
phil jordan
IM: you mean the PFI that the the previous administration spent around £8M getting right….? and was delivered full of flaws that we currently experience as we try to resolve the nigh impossible contract that was delivered…. that one? The cost to this Island last year of £2.5m of revenue to Hampshire under a government forced arrangement specifically because the previous conservative administration failed on education …that… Read more »
Island Monkey
It’s all them them them eh. Whomever they are. Do you not think people rumbled your blame game long ago? If the government had any faith at all in your barely functioning administration, they would have allowed you to run the schools. And children’s services? They had no faith. No mention of the rubbish? Or an apology for wasting so much of our money on persecuting a… Read more »
“In November 2012 Ofsted found the island’s children’s social services to be “inadequate” in every area of inspection.’ The Department for Education (DfE) also expressed concern the island had a disproportionate number of secondary schools requiring significant improvement or special measures and that absence rates were the worst in the country.” Wasn’t that under the management of the Tory IWC before most of the councillors in office… Read more »
The talent pool for Councillors on this small Island is very limited. There are times when we will all be critical of whoever is in the position, regardless of which party (or not, for the Indies!) they represent. There are times when we all think we could do better (sometimes blindfolded with a hand tied behind our back!). But those in the seat right now have had… Read more »
Phil jordan



seems like some people including some councillors want to avoid and forget four short years…..

phil jordan
IM: Goodness…re-writing history as well! Yep, here is what actually happened. The previous administration spen around 8 years driving both a schools re-organisation and eduction shambles into the ground. By February 2013, the game was up and the senior members of the last administration were aware of the impending Government intervention. The very first letter opened by the then Leader Cllr Stephens from Government at the start… Read more »
Island Monkey
Yes, let’s not rewrite history. We’d had 17 years of Liberal chaos followed by Lib Dem – Indie Island First Phil. The Island schools had been dysfunctional long before the Tories took over. Remind me, which party were you and many of your ‘Indie’ shower in before transforming to independent? This administration has achieved nothing. The cost of Hampshire is your failure because it is your lot… Read more »
phil jordan
IM: you will not get away with that assertion… The previous administration drove the education system on this Island into the ground…. it is a fact that there administration caused the government to intervene in June 2013 because they had failed (never mind any other years of poor delivery) and Government acted. This administration has nothing whatsoever to do with the state that education was in and… Read more »
phil jordan


and as I said….and you confirmed…you are trying to re-write history and it will not stick….

Island Monkey

I completely agree Phil. 17 years of Liberal rule, and how many of your lot were then Liberals?

Ok….I realise this is going to go down like a lead balloon but……… The exam results on the Island leave a lot to be desired. Agreed ? How are they going to improve if throughout the year children are missing classes. Does the teacher go over the same stuff over and over again so everyone can catch up ? Or do they plough on regardless. I had… Read more »
m coakley
The UK is ranked 20th in the Programme for International School Assessment. The Isle of Wight remains in the bottom ten in the UK in respect of GCSE and A level results. One in five UK children leave school without basic skills in literacy and numeracy. If that is acceptable all well and good. Secondary schools have anything between 25 and 30 students per class and maybe… Read more »
You are, ostensibly, correct, however there are, and always will be, exceptions to the state of affairs you portray. There WILL be students who are sufficiently motivated that they will work to catch up by themselves. There WILL be students who will benefit from the break. The best people to decide what is best for students’s educational well-being are the professionals charged with providing their education (… Read more »

I agree with daveiow – it is easy to criticise our councillors from behind our computers but boy how I’d like to see Jon Platt lead our council. I’m sure he won’t have time as the school fines fiasco could well become the new PPI claim – and good luck to him.


@phil Jordan

“That failure by the conservatives and that Directive by the GOvernment has cost this Authority MILLIONs of pounds….£2.5M of them last year alone …with another two years to come and a previous two years to count. ”

(a) how much has IWC saved in local costs, labour and overheads, in sub contracting to Hampshire

(b) does Hampshire provide the service at cost or markup?

phil jordan
Jess: (a) how much has IWC saved in local costs, labour and overheads, in sub contracting to Hampshire that’s not how the arrangement works…. we are paying for management, management officers, and then investment into initiatives and schemes that are designed (and are) to deliver better outcomes for education and safeguarding. we havn’t *saved* money we have spent more…and rightly so to educate and protect our children.… Read more »
Thanks Phil Re (a), perhaps I misunderstood, but from the perspective of being a governor of an IW school (writing now of course privately) I was lead to believe there had been a reduction in provision at County Hall in terms of officer capaicity in education as the senior officers were now Hampshire? Re (b) I’m a chartered accountant, in my world “cost” is very definitive! I… Read more »
phil jordan
Jess: Thanks….just firstly to remind us that this ‘arrangement’ is forced upon us by Government. It appears to be working but it has a cost. I cannot say definitively from which departments the 600 officers that have left the Council since 2010 came from…. nor the reasons for leaving. It is the case that we are having to cut officer numbers due to the budget shortfall so… Read more »
billy builder
Phil, to retain the best staff in any organisation there has to be a clear career path for those staff. With Hampshire holding the whip hand over education and children’s services means that no one wishing to progress a career in these areas within a council would consider IOW as an option. The only way to recruit and keep good staff is to have headroom to allow… Read more »
Luisa Hillard
billy builder, no one considers the Isle of Wight Council to be a good career move when there are more staff being made redundant every year. The diminishing finances ensure that ‘headroom’ and a clear career path are things of the past at this point. Unless the government starts to provide the minimum amount of funding needed to stabilise the situation. As it stands they intend to… Read more »
Island Monkey

I hear more cases are due in court this week. Will the never wrong indie council now abandon them, or will taxpayers keep paying for you to lose? No wonder officers keep leaving. Your administration is embarassing.

(BB) “With Hampshire (and the Academy system) holding the whip hand over education……” Mmmm! Milk-snatcher Thatcher, Blair, Andrew Adonis (father of the Academy system and now aka “Benedict Arnold”?), Gove and “Waste of space” Morgan (spit!) “One of Labour’s pre-eminent thinkers (Lord Adonis) is to resign his party’s whip in the House of Lords after being recruited by George Osborne to head a newly created National Infrastructure… Read more »
Neil Oliver

“This will clearly have a detrimental effect on the education of those children,”

Why? Where’s the evidence to support such a view?



We can now go back to a system where those that know and understand the students the best (their parents and teachers) get to decide what best suits their educational needs instead of this ridiculous ( but profitable ) one-size-fits-all blanket ban.


What about when teachers decide to have teachers training day count them up works out same if you take kids out school term let’s start fining schools too

Amy, I think it’s been said plenty of times before. Teacher Training Days were set up in the 80s and at that point 5 days were removed from school holidays. It is not an additional closure of the school. The days are scheduled in mainly either at the beginning or the end of a term. Your comment shows a basic lack of understanding of this matter.
Richard W

No Amy – Teacher Training Days are not part of school term dates – children work 190 days and teachers term dates are 195 days – difference is 5 training days. Of course – 190 days would equate to 171 days allowing for 10% non attendance!