Friday, 7 April 2017

School attendance ~ Isle of Wight Council v Platt

The Education Act 1996 section 444 defines two offences applying to parents of children of compulsory school age.

(1)  If a child of compulsory school age who is a registered pupil at a school fails to attend regularly at the school, his parent is guilty of an offence.

(1A)  If in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) the parent knows that his child is failing to attend regularly at the school and fails without reasonable justification to cause him to do so, he is guilty of an offence.

The Supreme Court
has held that the word "regularly" is to be interpreted as meaning in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school.

Note: Because of section 444(3), there will not be an offence if the absence is with leave or if attendance is prevented by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause or if the absence is on any day exclusively set apart for religious observance by the religious body to which his parent belongs.

See Isle of Wight Council v Platt [2017] UKSC 28

Mr Platt was charged with the offence under section 444(1).  He had requested leave to take his daughter on holiday but this was refused.  Nevertheless he took her on the holiday and she was absent from school for 7 days.  Even allowing for this absence, she had 90.3% attendance at the school.  Mr Platt was issued with a Penalty Notice but did not pay it and so he was prosecuted under section 444(1) which is a strict liability offence.  The local authority do not have to prove that the parent was at fault.  At his trial in the Isle of Wight Magistrates' Court, Mr Platt submitted that he had no case to answer and the magistrates agreed.  In their view there had been regular attendance.  The High Court upheld the view of the magistrates as to the meaning of regularly.  However, the Supreme Court disagreed and returned Mr Platt's case to the magistrates with a direction to proceed as if his submission of no case to answer had been rejected.

Section 444(1A) is the more serious offence where the parent knows that his child is failing to attend regularly and has no reasonable justification for his own failure to cause the child to do so.

Link of interest:

Barristers at 11KBW have an excellent blog on Education Law

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