Wed, 15 May 2019
SCHOOLS in West Berkshire issued 285 fines for unauthorised absences in 2017/18.
The term-time school fines equate to 13 per 1,000 pupils.
Figures released by the Department of Education show that the number of unauthorised absences across the country are the highest since records began.
The biggest rise in unauthorised absentee figures is in state-run primary schools and special schools.
Neighbouring Hampshire issued 6,616 term-time fines, or 40 per 1,000. Oxford fared much better, with only 103 term-time fines, which equates to one per 1,000.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The Education Secretary has made it clear that persistent absence from school is a society-wide challenge that we all need to work together to resolve – and while significant progress has been made, today’s data shows that has now plateaued.
“High-quality education and pastoral care will make a real difference to children’s life chances, and that’s particularly important for those who are most vulnerable, but clearly key initiatives will only work if children are present.
“That’s why the rules on term-time absences are clear; no child should be taken out of school without good reason.
“We have put headteachers back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”
Term-time holidays are an emotive and divisive subject, with many parents prepared to pay the £60 fine to save hundreds – sometimes even thousands – on expensive family holidays.
However, others feel that children should not be taken out of school at any point for holidays.
One mother-of-two wrote on Newburytoday’s Facebook page: “I was fined last year £240 in total – two kids two adults – my kids had over 95 per cent attendance and when we was away my daughter did a day-to-day diary. However, fine still made it cheaper than going away in half term.”
Another parent said: “I was fined in October for a term-time holiday for my five-year-old.
“My five-year-old has autism so doesn’t cope well in new settings as well as big crowds so term-time holidays are best. I was fined £60 for the holiday.
“I expected it as the school had already pre-warned about the fine when they declined the holiday request.
“I don’t think it’s fair as my son had 100 per cent attendance. The school sent him home one afternoon due to a temperature and that was the only time he’d had off.
“My term-time holiday in June will cost us £750 where as in half term it costs £2,000+. The fine was only £60 so I just factor in the cost of the fine.”
Data provided to parents of Park House School show that a pupil with 95 per cent attendance is missing 1.25 lessons a week, 7.5 a term or 45 lessons a year.
A mother of children at Park House School, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Yes, it might be cheaper to pay a fine and go on a holiday, and yes some holidays may be ‘educational’, but schools are under massive financial pressures as it is, so when a child misses a lesson, the teacher can’t play catch up and why should they?
“They are not allowed term-time holidays, so why should everyone else have the ‘right’ to take their child out of a free school?
“I am not a teacher, just a parent, and I fully support fines and wish they were more.”
Government guidelines state that if a child is absent from a state school during term-time, the local council can issue a fine of £60 per child and per parent, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
If not paid within 28 days, the parents can be prosecuted for the child’s absence from school.
Fines collected by councils are ring-fenced and can only be used for issuing and enforcing penalty notices and for any related prosecutions and so are not used to raise money.