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Pupil absence fines highest on record as they rise by more than 50 per cent in a year

More than 20,000 prosecutions have been made for failure to pay school attendance fines.

The number of fines issued to parents over their children’s school attendance has risen by more than 50 per cent in a year as prosecutions reach their highest level since 2010, figures show.

Department for Education data published today shows councils issued 151,125 fines to parents in 2014-15, a rise of 53 per cent from 98,259 the previous year - and the highest figure on record.

And in 21,533 cases, parents were prosecuted over non-payment of the fines. It is the highest figure since 2010, and is 27 per cent higher than the previous year’s figure of 16,959.

The fines are for school attendance, including truancy and children taken out of school for term-time holidays. Councils can issue parents with a £60 fine if their child misses school, which rises to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days. After 28 days, parents can be prosecuted, which can result in a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence of up to three months.

In 2014-15, 71 per cent of the fines, or 108,024 were paid within 28 days. Eleven per cent were withdrawn.

The figures come after Isle of Wight Council was last month given the go-ahead for a Supreme Court challenge in a row about a local parent who took his child out of school during term time for a trip to Florida.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, told TES in May that he backed a school that had lengthened its school day in order to give pupils longer holidays, which enabled some parents to take advantage of cheaper holidays. "Schools have to be a bit creative about how they schedule their terms across the year," Mr Hobby said.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said almost 200,000 fewer pupils were now missing school persistently than in 2010.

“The rules are perfectly clear – children should not be taken out of school without good reason,” he said. “That is why we have tightened the rules and are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence.

“The evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances – vindicating our strong stance on attendance. A child who is absent also impacts teachers, whose planning of lessons is disrupted by children missing large portions of teaching.

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