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Family wins their case against fine for holiday absence

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 December 2016 | UPDATED: 09:00 30 December 2016

Dean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. 
Dean and his wife Loraine were fined for taking their children out of school for their wedding in Florida. They refused to pay the fine and were taken to court by Suffolk County Council and they won.

PHOTO: Nick Butcher

Dean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. Dean and his wife Loraine were fined for taking their children out of school for their wedding in Florida. They refused to pay the fine and were taken to court by Suffolk County Council and they won. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

©archant2016

A family fined for taking their children on holiday during term time has 
won their case against Suffolk County Council in the second victory in just a few weeks.

The case now leaves schools with the dilemma of how strictly to enforce the rules – and parents wondering whether they should gamble on escaping a fine.

Dean and Lorraine Pierpoint took nine-year-old Preston and seven-year-old Riley out of Pakefield Primary School in May to attend their wedding in Florida.

The couple, who also have a two-year-old daughter, Lola, won their case at Great Yarmouth, when magistrates decided there was no case to answer.

They were represented by a solicitor funded by Isle of Wight campaigner Jon Platt, who won a High Court case against a fine imposed by Isle of Wight council. 
The High Court ruled he did not have to pay a £120 fine because his daughter had attended school “regularly”.

Mr Pierpoint said: “Why is Suffolk County Council trying to give parents criminal records, which can impact on their livelihoods?

“What they talk about in the courtroom is statistics of your child’s attendance.

“They don’t hear about the support you give them after school or the money you pay into the school for trips.

“None of that is taken into account.”

Another family – Hannah and Richard Smith from Lowestoft – had the case against them withdrawn outside the courtroom but Mr Pierpoint said the solicitor acting for the county council had pushed for the Pierpoints to go through the trial.

Mr Pierpoint said their own solicitor argued there was no legal definition of regular attendance and moved for the case to be dismissed.

He added: “There are still fines being issued. It is a case of people being strong enough to go through this process. It is hard but the principle of what they are doing is wrong.”

In the case of unauthorised absences, each parent is fined £60 for each absent child, which doubles if unpaid for 21 days.

How other councils deal with unauthorised absences

Following Mr and Mrs Pierpoint’s case, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said it was up to each headteacher to decide whether to authorise an absence or not.

The spokesman added: “The fixed penalty notices were issued as a result of a referral from their children’s school in line with the attendance policy of that school and it is Suffolk County Council’s policy to support schools.”

In light of Mr Platt’s High Court victory, Norfolk County Council relaxed its stance on fines, deciding not to punish parents who took their children out of school for holidays without permission, if their overall attendance was good. Instead, fines are only issued for holiday absences where there are other unauthorised absences which take the attendance percentage below 90pc in a 12-week period.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “Making sure students in Norfolk get an excellent education is a priority for the council and being at school is absolutely vital if our young people are to reach their potential, as there is a clear link between school attendance and performance.”

Cambridgeshire County Council does not issue parents with a penalty notice for a first unauthorised absence. Penalty notices are only issued for subsequent unauthorised absences which take a child’s attendance below 90pc.

What do you think? 
Write to EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk giving your full 
name, address and contact details.

5 comments

  • Who cares about children's future prospects? Cheap holidays are much more important. Just think of all the happy holiday memories they'll have while asking "Do you want fries with that?".

    Report this comment

    PaulWho

    Thursday, January 5, 2017

  • Whether you get fined or not, for deliberately removing your children out of school is clearly not the issue. It is the parents choice to remove their children out of school. However, if a fine system is in place and a parent has been notified of probable fines, then again it is the parents decision based on their priorities alone. Whether to send a child to school where they should be, or whether to risk the resultant fine, not to mention loss of 2 weeks of the teacher's time and the child's education. There are more than enough school holidays and weeks off school in order 'to provide a valuable part of children's development' without having to wilfully take your child out of school.

    Report this comment

    Bruce87

    Saturday, December 31, 2016

  • With respect Bruce87 this isn't the issue here. What is being disputed is whether you should be fined for your child's "poor" attendance which some heads and LEAs deem a holiday constitutes, but the courts are ruling that attendance is only poor if it drops below 90%. Additionally, some parents, including me, think that family time out once a year (for some ruled out due to extortionate school holiday prices) is a very valuable part of a child's development and has minimal impact on their school learning.

    Report this comment

    Sportswagon

    Saturday, December 31, 2016

  • A wedding in Florida is more important than their children's education? I feel sorry for the children being given a very poor example by selfish parents, whose priorities are clearly misplaced and mixed up.

    Report this comment

    Bruce87

    Friday, December 30, 2016

  • I hope Mr Platt has deep pockets as he is being taken to the Supreme court by the IOW council. So people don`t go celebrating too soon. He must have paid out a small fortune in legal fees so far and lose or win at the Supreme Court the he may wish he had paid the fine and got on with his life.

    Report this comment

    Hereandthere

    Friday, December 30, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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