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Gibb pledges to act over term-time holidays

The schools minister has pledged to take all "measures necessary" to overturn the High Court ruling which casts doubt on the term-time holidays.

Nick Gibb says he wants to give schools and councils in England "the power and clarity to ensure children attend school when they should".

The court ruled a man was entitled to take his child out of school on holiday due to her good attendance record.

Mr Gibb was responding to an urgent question in the Commons from a Tory MP.

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "Only 8% of school absenteeism is down to family holidays, and when you look at the attainment of those children, there is no drop-off on attainment.

"Family holidays are good for children, they widen their knowledge of their world, they widen their experiences, and the children of families who take them on holiday often perform better as a result."

Pupils' grades

Mr Double also highlighted the economic impact of the term-time ban on holidays, on tourism areas like Cornwall, and called for a full debate on the issue.

Responding, Mr Gibb said he was awaiting the written judgement from the high court and would set out the government's next steps in due course.

He said: "The ruling represents a significant threat to one of the government's most important achievements over the last six years - improving school attendance.

"For this reason the government will do everything in its power to ensure head teachers are able to keep children in school.

"There is abundant academic evidence which shows time spent in school is one of the single strongest determinants of academic success. Even a week off at secondary school can have a significant impact on a pupil's grades."

He said the number of persistent absentees had dropped by over 40% since 2010, adding there were four million fewer days of authorised absence over the period 2012-13 to 2015-2016.

He acknowledged: "The need to take time off school in exceptional circumstances is important, but there are no special circumstances where a 10-day family holiday to Disney World should be allowed to trump attendance at school.

Attendance record

"The rules must and should apply to everyone, this is about social justice. When parents with the income available to take their children out of school go to Florida it sends the message that schools aren't important."

Instead he urged schools and academies to club together and change their term and holiday dates.

The pledge comes after the High Court ruled in favour of a father who refused to pay a £120 fine for taking his daughter on an unauthorised term-time holiday.

Isle of Wight Council had asked it to clarify the law after magistrates had overturned their fine - saying Jon Platt had no case to answer as his daughter had attended school regularly.

The case centred on whether the child's track record of attendance could and should be taken into consideration when seeking a fine for unauthorised absence.

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