Who is Jon Platt – and how did this Irish father end up in a £12k Supreme Court battle over school holidays?
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Who is Jon Platt – and how did this Irish father end up in a £12k Supreme Court battle over school holidays?

A FATHER who refused to pay a £60 fine for taking his seven-year-old daughter to Disney World during term-time could face prosecution after he lost a landmark legal battle.

Jon Platt, originally from Derry, spent over £12,000 during a two-year legal battle which took him all the way to the Supreme Court.

After losing his battle yesterday, Mr Platt said the Supreme Court’s verdict siding with education chiefs will “criminalise millions of parents” who want to take holidays outside the school holidays.

Speaking outside the London court, the 46-year-old said he was “not at all surprised” he lost, adding: “I can tell you I have absolutely no intention of pleading guilty to this offence when it goes back to the magistrates court.”

He added: “To parents all over England I say this: the legal battle is now over. There is no right of appeal beyond this place.

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“You can no longer make a decision to take your child out of school even for one morning without the permission of the state.”

So who is Derry dad Jon Platt, and why did it come to this?

Jon Platt, who runs a PPI claims firm, lives in the Isle of Wight with his three children and his wife Sally.

The 45-year-old took his seven-year-old daughter to Florida during term time in April 2015, causing her to miss a week of school.

Mr Platt’s request for permission to take his daughter out of school for the holiday was refused by her headtacher.

When the family returned, Mr Platt was issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which he did not pay, followed by a further invoice for £120, which he also refused to pay.

Mr Platt argued it was the only time all 17 members of the extended family could go to Florida together but he was still told to pay.

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He took Isle of Wight Council to court over the fine, and after spending £1,000 fighting the case he was successful in overturning it.

But the council appealed the case and took it to the High Court in May 2016, where Mr Platt was again successful.

However, in December 2016 the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and it was announced this week that Mr Platt had finally lost.

The entire case stems from 2013 education guidelines brought in by then Education Secretary Michael Gove to crack down on school absences.

The guidelines only apply only to pupils aged five and over attending state schools in England. The rules do not apply to independent schools, nor schools in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

How does Ireland compare?

Ireland is more relaxed when it comes to parents taking children out of school during term time for holidays.

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Under Irish law, schools are only obliged to report an absence of 20 days or more to the Education Welfare Service of TUSLA, the Child and Family Agency.

According to the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the average length of time Irish holidaymakers spend abroad is seven nights – so the vast majority wouldn’t exceed the limit.

A third of Irish parents have pulled their children out of school during term for a holiday, according to Independent.ie.

TUSLA Ireland have issued the following guidance: “Taking a holiday during term time means that children miss important school time.

“It will be difficult for them to catch up on work later on. As a result, they may fall behind with school work and lose confidence in their abilities. We strongly advise parents do not take their children out of school for holidays during term time.”

What now for Jon Platt?

Speaking outside court on Thursday, Mr Platt said he would not plead guilty to any offence when he is brought before the magistrates court.

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“The issue is no longer if it ever was about term-time holidays, it is about the State taking the rights of parents away when it comes to making decisions about their children,” he said.

“To parents all over England I say this: the legal battle is now over. There is no right of appeal beyond this place.

“It will be a generation or more before this court revisits this decision if ever it does.

“You can no longer make a decision to take your child out of school even for one morning without the permission of the state.”

He added that two years’ worth of emotional strain on his family had not been “not worth it”, saying he never chose to fight a “campaign” and education chiefs “for some reason wanted to make an example of me” after he refused to pay his original £60 fine.

And he said he would move his daughter to private school unless her headteacher could guarantee he would not be fined again in future.

Meanwhile, a petition has been set up for children with high attendance to be allowed to take holidays in term time. 

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