Council fines parents of absent school pupils

By Emily Pearce

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


A TOTAL OF 327 fines have been issued to parents whose children have missed school since September.

The penalty notices were issued by the Isle of Wight Council when children were absent without permission — either they were caught playing truant or were taken out of school for unauthorised holidays — since new rules clamping down on term-time holidays came into force.

The government has scrapped rules allowing headteachers to grant absences of up to ten days per year for family holidays. Instead, they can only approve absences 'in exceptional circumstances’.

Parents can now be given a £60 fixed penalty notice for each child absent during term time, rising to £120 after 21 days.

If the fine is not paid within 28 days, parents can be prosecuted.

The new rules have sparked anger nationally, with many parents claiming they cannot afford to take their children on holiday during school holidays, when prices rise significantly, but the government has insisted action must be taken to curb unauthorised absence.

As previously reported, the Island’s secondary school absence and truancy rates are the worst in the country.

The council’s cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Richard Priest, said: "Improving attendance rates for schools on the Island is a key priority for the council. Absence can and does have an impact on attainment and progress.

"The council has many strategies to increase attendance rates and the impact is already showing positive results. For example, attendance data for all schools for the autumn term 2013 compared to 2012 is considerably higher."



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by James McAdder

22nd January 2014, at 15:12:37

The problem with rules, Helen, is they are often wrong. When you park in a council car park, you agree to their terms and conditions. You always have the alternative of finding a free parking space.

This rule/law is an imposition. There is no alternative. If you cannot get time off from work in the highly contested school holiday periods then you either don't have a holiday, or you go in term time and pay the fine.

Whenever I have taken my children out of school I have always done it after discussing it with their teachers and only did so when the teacher was happy that there would be no impact on my child's education (and sometimes a benefit).

Of course, with this law change, that is now impossible.

For the last two weeks of term my youngest came home every day claiming all she did was "colouring", her teacher confirmed this as the syllabus was finished. How is this time well spent. How is this better than a holiday?

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by Helen Rogers

22nd January 2014, at 14:00:10

I don't understand the problem really - if you don't adhere to the rules then you get a fine? No different to overstaying a parking ticket and being fined.

Did you know that a 10 days holiday leave a year is the equivalent of two whole terms of education missed. Given the state of letters and applications we receive from young people with dreadful spelling and grammar etc - children need all the time in school!

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by James McAdder

22nd January 2014, at 13:22:56

I would like to know what proportion of those 327 were real truants rather than parents deciding that a £60 fine is worth it for a holiday they can afford and, in many cases, get time off work to go on.

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by James McAdder

22nd January 2014, at 13:19:41

Suggest you read this, T Rollingsworth.

If you don't pay the fine you get a bigger fine and a criminal record.
You really couldn't make it up. Almost Stalinist.

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by Peter Cole

22nd January 2014, at 12:54:26

This is ridiculous, given the current state of the education system, many children would learn more on holiday. There is also the issue of head teachers using illegal exclusion to remove so called disruptive children (or is it bored). If this law is to be used against parents then it needs to be even handed, so head teachers guilty of illegal exclusion should be personally fined.
Trouble is with all set targets with sanctions, the focus becomes how to meet the target (or appear to) to make money, rather than the job in hand.
It does not matter if children are at school or not if the system is unable or willing to teach them anything of use.

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by T Rollingsworth

22nd January 2014, at 12:51:10

I remember my parents taking me out of school on my birthday every year so we could go somewhere, and sometimes for a week before the summer holidays started for a family holiday and it never did me any harm. In fact, I could argue that I am doing better than a lot of my former school-friends.

"parents can be prosecuted" is a bit over the top, it would cost them more to have their legal team process it if you refuse!

Go ahead and punish parents who constantly forget to send the children to school, or you feel they're falling behind, but putting everyone in the same boat is ridiculous and anyone who actually pays the fine is a more of a numpty than those issuing them!

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by James McAdder

22nd January 2014, at 12:06:12

It should be jointly up to parents and teachers to decide if a child's education would suffer (or even benefit) from a holiday.

This draconian legislation is merely a cynical attempt to massage truancy levels by targeting law-abiding and conscientious parents rather than real truancy.

Also a nice little earner for the Council. 327 x £60 = £19620

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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