Term time holidays; open season after a landmark ruling?

A landmark court decision about a little girl’s dream trip to Disney World has once again opened the debate on the ability to take children on holiday during term time.


DisneyDespite not having permission from the school for the eight-day trip, Hampshire father Jon Platt took his seven-year-old daughter to the Florida resort in April 2015, along with 17 members of his family.

He was initially fined £60, which doubled to £120 when he did not pay, and on non-payment of the £120, he was taken to court. However, his legal team argued that the law only required parents to make sure their children attended school ‘regularly’. Magistrates ruled that there was no case to answer before the case came to trial.

The decision also highlights another issue in that divorced parent Mr Platt has two daughters. He was only fined over the removal of one daughter, as the other is privately educated.


The Government website is very clear on the issue. Your children can only miss school if they are

  • Too ill to attend


  • If you have advance permission from the school


You must have permission from the head teacher to take children out of school during term time. If leave is granted, it is up to the head teacher to decide how many days your child may be absent. There is an added complication for divorced parents, as you can only apply if you are a parent that “the child normally lives with”.

If you take your child out of school without a good reason, you can be prosecuted by the council and fined up to £2500, given a community order or a jail sentence of up to 3 months, plus a Parenting Order.

This does not seem to deter some parents. Figures released for the last academic year show that over 50,000 penalty notices were issued by local authorities for children taken out of school for holidays, a rise of 173% on two years ago.
Many parents appear to be motivated by the considerably lower cost of holidays during term time compared to during the school holidays. A £60 or even £120 fine is not much a deterrent when saving of £100s can be made. However, as the number of penalty notices rise, there is a growing risk that authorities may jump straight to prosecution rather than fines, leaving parents exposed to the risk of court action.

A petition to allow up to two weeks’ term-time leave for all children was debated in Parliament in late October and you can read the results here.