Surge in fines for parents taking children on term time holidays

THERE has been a massive increase in the number of parents fined this year in parts of Yorkshire as a result of a crackdown on children being taken out of school during term time.

Absenteeism has risen

Nationally the number of fines issued to parents for their children’s absence has risen by around 70 per cent according to a new national survey.

However in some areas of Yorkshire there have been up to ten fold increases.

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In Leeds the number parents fined has risen from 93 in 2012/13 to 821 in 2013/14.

In North Yorkshire the figures have risen from just 38 in 2012/13 to 517 in the last academic year.

Both the East Riding and Doncaster have been named in a table of the local authorities issuing the most fines nationally.

The East Riding Council is said to have issued 1,594 fines up from 1,066 a year earlier while in Doncaster the figure has more than doubled from 630 to 1,424.

In Barnsley it has more than doubled from 118 fines issued to 278 while Hull’s figure for 2013/14 was 840 fines up from 476.

In contrast Calderdale has only seen a small increase from 104 to 120.

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

Tougher guidelines from the Department for Education which effectively ban children being taken 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 on behalf of schools in their area.

Coun Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive board member for children and families said: “The increase in the number of fines we have issued is a result of new government legislation which was introduced last September, which removed head teachers’ discretion to authorise any absence during term time for holidays.

“Head teachers have no choice but to comply with the legislation.

“However, the figures seem to tell us that the majority of parents are taking notice of the new legislation as we had the best ever attendance in the autumn term and a fall in the rate of absence due to holidays.”

A spokeswoman for North Yorkshire County Council said parents and carers were sent a letter last summer informing them the new law gives no entitlement to parents to take their child on holiday during term time.

She added: “The granting of term-time leave is at the discretion of the head teacher and each application is considered individually by the school taking into account any factors presented by the family to the head teacher.

“Schools understand why some parents may want to take their children on holiday during term-time when packages are often cheaper and because of work commitment, but continuity of a child’s education is regarded as paramount. Under the new legislation leave of absence can only be granted in exceptional circumstances and the regulations make clear that head teachers would not be expected to class any term time holiday as exceptional.”

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

He said: “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.”