Leader comment: School court ruling is victory for common sense

Jon Platt lost his legal challenge at the Supreme Court, over a fine for taking his daughter on holiday during term-time.  (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Jon Platt lost his legal challenge at the Supreme Court, over a fine for taking his daughter on holiday during term-time. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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Those watching the case of Jon Platt - who has been told that his decision to take his daughter out of school to go on holiday is illegal - must wonder how such a problem gets taken to the Supreme Court.

The girl’s father has said it is curtailing the rights of parents to choose what is best for their child.

Yet it is a serious issue and one which needs to be decided one way or the other, which yesterday’s ruling has now done. Parents are bound by a number of rules when they send their child to school to get an education and attendance is compulsory - except for exceptional circumstances such as illness.

School is aimed at giving children the best start in life and parents cannot know what exactly is going to be missed at the time they have chosen to have their holiday.

Meanwhile, by breaking this rule, however occasionally, parents are causing disruption not only to their own child, but to everyone else’s too as the teacher has to play catch up once they are back from their holidays.

However, this case is actually indicative of a wider problem: that parents think it if not compulsory then at least advisory to be able to take children on expensive holidays, when in fact, a week closer to home would do.

Spending time with children does not need to be expensive during the holidays - just playing with them and doing things together is enough if you are on the tightest budget.

However, in the world of Facebook and Instagram, there is a pressure to be seen to be giving your children the best childhood possible - even though what you are doing for them is not necessarily the best thing. Because of this, bagging a luxury holiday, even if it has to be outside of school term time to ensure that it is affordable, is regarded as a necessity.

In Germany, the state has taken control - staggered school holidays were introduced in 1964, with different regions of the country taking slightly different dates. However, this comes with its own problems and some travel experts based in Germany claim that it has actually just elongated the higher price period.

Travel agents have claimed that there is no such thing as holiday price inflation during the holidays, arguing that instead, that is the reasonable price, while off-season is a discounted rate.

The argument, which was initially rejected by local magistrates who said Mr Platt had no case to answer and then later by two High Court judges in London who later upheld the magistrates’ decision, declaring Mr Platt was not acting unlawfully because his daughter had a good overall attendance record of over 90 per cent - will be a landmark case for school across the country - particularly in England and Wales where the fining system is in place.

Yet taking children out of school when they should be there to learn is not a solution.

The decision in Mr Platt’s court case is not a blow to the human rights of parents, it is a reminder children have to go to school, and parents have a responsibility to send them.