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Number of parents fined for unauthorised absences increases by 16%

PUBLISHED: 05:30 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:58 11 February 2020

The number of unauthorized absences at schools across Suffolk has risen by 16.2% in one year. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

The number of unauthorized absences at schools across Suffolk has risen by 16.2% in one year. Picture: GETTY IMAGES / ISTOCKPHOTO

The number of fines issued for unauthorised school absences has increased in the last year.

Cllr Jack Abbott said issues in the implementation were linked to flaws in the policy itself. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNCllr Jack Abbott said issues in the implementation were linked to flaws in the policy itself. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Data obtained under a freedom of information request by The Knowledge Academy showed that the number of penalty notices issued to parents by Suffolk County Council (SCC) increased by 16.2% between the 2017/8 and 2018/9 academic years.

In Essex, the number of penalties handed out increased by just under a quarter.

The county saw the 10th highest increase across the UK with 2,116 more notices year on year.

Labour education spokesman, Jack Abbott said: ""We do not want any child missing out on their education, but I am not convinced that fines are an effective or sustainable solution to dealing with unauthorised absence.

"The cost of family vacations during the school holidays are so expensive that many parents are willing to risk a fine by taking their children away during term-time instead.

"Clearly, with the number of fines increasing, the current policy is not acting as a deterrent and, in some instances, it has only served to drive a wedge between families and schools.

"I would urge the government to rethink, intervene by introducing measures that would reduce the cost of family holidays, and help keep children in the classroom."

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Nationally, councils issued 25% more penalty notices in 2018/9 than in the previous academic year.

The figures also showed an increase in the revenue collected from fines which increased from £295,800 to £336,095, an increase of 13.6%.

SCC charge £120 for each penalty notice, which is reduced to £60 if paid within 21 days.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: "Regardless of the cause or type of absence, Suffolk County Council's position on school attendance and education remains clear.

"We can only raise the bar if children are attending education.

"It is therefore important that parents and schools work in collaboration to support and enable young people to tackle underlying causes and factors that may prevent pupils from accessing and engaging with education. Where notified by the school that there is an issue, the council will work with the school to provide help and support to the family to get the child back into education.

"The use of Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) is just one of the tools that is used by schools to help to improve attendance issues.

"It is the headteacher's decision to make a referral for the issue of a FPN. The council will support all schools with this process, however each case has to comply with the FPN code of conduct.

"The use of FPNs by schools has shown to improve the overall attendance performance of schools where they are used."

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