YP Comment: Legal lesson on school holidays – education must take precedence

Jon Platt speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in London, where he lost a court battle over taking his daughter on holiday to Disney World during school term-time.
Jon Platt speaks to the media outside the Supreme Court in London, where he lost a court battle over taking his daughter on holiday to Disney World during school term-time.
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THERE will be many parents who sympathise with Jon Platt who has fought – and now lost – a two-year legal battle after taking umbrage when he was fined for taking his daughter, who had an otherwise exemplary attendance record, on a term-time holiday to Disney World when travel prices were significantly cheaper.

Equally, many will endorse the Supreme Court’s decision which says a child’s attendance at school must always come first – a doctrine which has been passed through the generations.

The fact that the leisure industry charges inflated prices during school holidays, when demand is at its greatest, is an understandable source of frustration for those mnay families who genuinely struggle to afford any ‘luxuries’.

That said, they will be compromising the future academic – and career – potential of their children if term-time absences become routine. Ensuring a child’s attendance at school is one of the most fundamental responsibilities of all parents. Not only does the Supreme Court’s verdict uphold this principle, but it also empowers the tough stance taken by those schools who view holiday-related absences in term-time as being disruptive to teachers; places the pupils concerned at a disadvantage and does nothing to assist the wider battle against truancy.

Nevertheless this should be, where possible, a matter for the discretion of individual schools – and not the courts. It should be for the teacher, or headteacher concerned, to determine any reasonable request for a term-time absence, such as a bereavement, religious holiday or any other exceptional circumstance. After all, they will know the child’s behaviour and circumstances. If there’s a dispute, the governing body – responsible for a school’s ethos – should be the final arbiter.

However, given the angst that this judgement will cause to some, there’s an onus on schools to take a more responsible approaching to the timing of teacher training days which continue to cause great irritation, and inconvenience, to parents. Some forbearance wouldn’t go amiss.

Banking betrayal

THE Respected Labour MP John Healey makes a profound point in The Yorkshire Post today – this country bailed out the banks during the financial crash and are now being repaid by the closure of local branches on an unacceptable scale.

Though digital technology is transforming banking, there are still many who do not have access to online accounts, especially people living in poorer areas which appear to be paying the greatest price for the damaging cuts now being implemented.

This should not be a party political issue just because the Wentworth & Dearne MP is angered by the simultaneous decisions of HSBC and Yorkshire Bank to withdraw from Wath-upon-Dearne and leave this considerable community, home to 12,000 residents, without a single bank.

These decisions are affecting constituencies across the county, indeed the whole country, and Mr Healey’s comments about the indifference of the bank bosses concerned suggests that the Government needs to look again at this issue.

Like post offices, the banks should have social obligations – their industry has been heavily subsidised in recent times – and the onus, at the very least, should be on them to set out the alternative provision for the elderly, vulnerable and local businesses whenever they do propose a closure. If the banks won’t act, Ministers should not hesitate to do so.

Human cost of abuse scandal

THE incredibly brave Samantha Woodhouse did the nation a service by helping to expose the appalling Rotherham child abuse scandal. For years, she gave interviews under the name ‘Jessica’ to highlight what had happened in the town and the lack of action by those in authority to bring abusers to justice.

But after her abuser was finally jailed for 35 years following a trial last year, Miss Woodhouse has now revealed her true identity. This course of action is not one that suits every victim of sexual abuse, who are entitled to lifetime anonymity with good reason.

But the decision of Miss Woodhouse and others like her to tell their stories does help the public to properly understand the human cost of such abuse. The familiar figure associated with the Rotherham scandal – an estimated 1,400 victims – becomes all the more real with a thorough understanding of the tragic experiences of just one of their number.