Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Rise in fines for school absence

The number of fines issued to parents for their children's absence from school has risen by around 70% since term-time holidays were banned last year, a BBC survey of local councils in England has found.

Just under 64,000 fines were handed out between September and July, compared to 37,650 in the previous academic year, the research found.

A ban on taking children out of school for holidays during term-time was introduced by the Government in September last year and fines are issued by the local authorities.

Of the 152 councils across England the BBC said 118 had responded to its survey.

Lancashire topped the list of council areas handing out fines, with 3,106 issued in the last school year.

Other areas which saw big increases in the penalties issued included West Sussex and Doncaster, both of which more than doubled from year to year.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said attendance had improved since the ban was introduced.

He told the BBC: "When the Government came to office, the number of children missing school regularly was far too high.

"As a result of the changes we have implemented, 130,000 fewer pupils are regularly missing lessons, which means 130,000 more pupils getting the chance of a good education that prepares them for life in modern Britain."

Campaigner Stewart Sutherland, who was fined for taking his children out of school for five days, said the ban does not take account of parents' working patterns.

"Once the regulations came into force it became just a block ban, rather than schools and local councils considering each case individually," he told the BBC.

"It's now becoming the case that family holidays are just for the rich because so many working people either can't afford it or can't get the time off outside school terms.

"Family holidays are just as important to children as school. This shouldn't be treated the same as persistent truancy."

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