Parents fined £24m for children’s truancy and term time holidays

Mar 15, 2018 by

Parents across England and Wales have been fined about £24m for failing to send their children to school during the past three years, it has emerged.

A BBC investigation also shows some councils are issuing penalties at rates five times higher than the average.

Some parents say they now actively budget for the cost of fines when planning holidays.

While some councils admit they have become “stricter”, they say they are protecting the education of children.

Between them, 155 local authorities in England and Wales (Scotland and Northern Ireland do not issue fines) issued about 400,000 penalties over three years. A further 19 did not supply data.

On average, 12 penalties were issued per 1,000 children – whether for truancy or for parents taking children away on holiday during term time – during 2016-17.

Number of penalties awarded to parents for failing to send their children to school, per 1,000 pupils

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Some councils issued penalties at rates five times the average, including the Isle of Wight (64 per 1,000 pupils), which last year won a long-running case over an unauthorised holiday, East Riding of Yorkshire (63 per 1,000) and Suffolk (60 per 1,000).

All three councils issued penalty tickets at a rate of more than 60 per 1,000 pupils (compared with 12 per 1,000 on average). Of the Welsh authorities, Merthyr Tydfil had the highest penalty rate at 4.6 per 1,000 pupils, less than half the average for England and Wales.

Paul Brading, Isle of Wight’s cabinet member for schools, said its high rate of fines was because officials want every unauthorised absence to be “thoroughly followed through”.

From 2019, the authority is cutting the summer holiday from six to five weeks and introducing a two-week autumn half term instead.

The changes would also give island parents – many of whom work in the tourism sector – greater freedom to take a family break outside traditional school holiday dates.

Chart showing the areas with the most fines for term time absence

‘I’d do it again’

When Dave Brain’s father passed away, he decided to use money left to him to pay for a family holiday to Florida.

Going during the school holidays, he said, would have cost about £8,000 rather than the £4,500 they would be charged for a term-time trans-Atlantic holiday.

So Mr Brain, wife Hannah and their three children decided to ignore the threat of a £60 fine and flew off for a two-week holiday last September.

Florida as a destination held particular importance for Mr Brain, of Bristol, because his late father used to take him there as a child.

“We try and stick to the holidays,” he said. “But this was different and we budgeted for the fine,” said Mr Brain, co-creator and producer of the YouTube channel Guksack.

After their return to the UK, the family received a £60 fine for one of their children.

“And I would do it again in an instant if the same opportunity arose,” he said.

Source: Parents fined £24m for children’s truancy and term time holidays – BBC News

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