Lady Hale gave the leading judgement in this case and Lord Neuberger, Lord Mance, Lord Reed and Lord Hughes agreed with this judgement. She commences by discussing the issue of the case which is the definition of the term “regularly” when relating to attendance of a child at school. Under section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996, she provides three potential definitions in this context, namely; “at regular intervals” compared to someone going to church regularly on Sundays, “sufficiently regularly” likened to someone regularly going to church nearly every Sunday and “in accordance with the rules equated to someone being present at church when they are instructed to. Lady Hale explored the history leading up to the Education Act 1996 in relation to school attendance.
Prior to Education Act 1944 which was the basis of the Education Act 1996 attendance was compulsory except a reasonable reason and if a child was absent the parents could face prosecution. After 1944 children needed to attend school regularly only on the basis a specified reason such as religious observance or illness and unavoidable cause which was further reinforced in the Education Act 1996 under section 444. She rejected the first potential definition “at regular intervals” because it was implausible that a child attending school for one day out of the week, for example, Monday, was parliament’s intention. She gave ten reasons why “sufficiently regularly” was not an acceptable meaning which was the approach in the first reading and the precedent of the Bromley case. Firstly, the aim of the Education Act 1944 was to strengthen the extent and integrity of mandatory state education and parents for the first time were given more responsibility to ensuring that their children receive full time education appropriate for their age, ability and aptitude. The compulsory school age was increased and more educational opportunities was accessible for free so it was illogical that Parliament intended to lessen the previous responsibilities placed of parents to ensure their children’s attendance in order to make good use of the opportunities provided.
This was evident in the replacement of the vague provision of “reasonable excuse” to only excuses permissible by statute. Additionally, concerning children of no fixed abode, parents can argue that their child attended school “as regularly as that trade or businesses permits” and boarders are expected to have 100% attendance so the same should be applied to day pupils. Furthermore, this interpretation is too ambiguous to bring about criminal proceeding as there unclear to ascertain as to how much is sufficient and a parent will not know if taking child out of school on a certain day would be a criminal offence. Moreover, public policy is taken into account as Lady Hale points out the relationship between school attendance and educational achievement and the disruptive impact on the students in the class of the absent child, the absentee herself and the teachers as work would have to be made slowing down the teaching process. If one parent is allowed to take their child out of school other will follow suit increasing the rate of disruption dramatically. Finally, taking the strictness of the previous provision into consideration this interpretation was clearly not the will of parliament.
It is improbable that parliament would want parents ignore school rules by taking children out of school without permission and it was disrespectful to law-abiding parents who followed the rules regardless of any inconvenience