North Yorkshire mum wins term-time holiday battle

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A mother from Yorkshire hopes she has set a legal precedent that will impact on other families with disabled children after overturning a fine she was handed for taking her autistic son and his brother on holiday in term time.

The woman, who refused to pay the £120 fine, was charged with four counts of failing to ensure the “regular” school attendance of her two children.

But magistrates ruled that as her sons had an overall annual attendance of more than 90 per cent, they were still attending ‘regularly’ and she had not broken the law.

Claiming that “justice has been served”, the mother, from North Yorkshire but cannot be named for legal reasons, said she hoped the verdict would set a precedent, particularly for cases involving disabled children.

She said: “We went away outside of school holidays because there are less people and I don’t want my eldest son, who has autism, missing out. Going in term time makes him very anxious.”

Harrogate Magistrates’ Court heard how the defendant had asked to be allowed to take her eldest two children out of the North Yorkshire infant school for two family holidays last year for a total of 12 days.

She told the school that the holidays would provide rest and recuperation for her eldest son, who had recently been diagnosed with autism. After assessing her son, a charity for disabled children had offered to pay for the first trip, she said.

But the school’s headteacher, who is able to grant leave in “exceptional circumstances”, refused to authorise the absences as she “did not believe this was the case”.

Prosecutor Pam Lees, acting on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council, said the authority took the view that any absence has a detrimental effect on children, irrespective of age.

But recording a not guilty verdict, magistrate Chris Harrison said: “In this case we do not believe the unauthorised absences amount to failure to secure the regular attendance of the children.”