Parents in Havering hit with more than £100,000 of fines over school absences
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Parents in Havering were struck by fines totalling more than £100,000 for failing to ensure their children attended school in 2016/17, according to figures from the Department for Education.
Havering Council issued 2,497 penalty notices for unauthorised school absences in the borough last year, an increase of 14pc on 2015/16, and 2,109 were paid within the 28-day time limit, totalling £128,220.
Unauthorised holidays for children during term time accounted for 95pc of fines issued.
The number of persistently absent children in Havering increased by 4pc last year, with 3,893 pupils missing 10pc of their allocated classes.
Local authorities impose their own rules on when parents can be given penalty notices over their children’s absence from school. Fines are £60 if paid within 21 days, and £120 within 28 days.
Councils can prosecute parents if penalty notices remain unpaid after 28 days. Last year, 66 cases were taken to court in Havering for non-payment.
Parents can receive a fine of up to £2,500, a community order or a jail sentence of up to three months if prosecuted.
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Havering Council withdrew 66 cases, 3pc of all the penalty notices issued, following non-payment of fines.
The borough has a higher rate of fines than the national average, with 73 notices issued for every 1,000 pupils, compared to 22 for England.
Collectively, local authorities raised over £6.4m in fines across the academic year.
Darren Northcott, the national official for education at the teachers’ union NASUWT, said that the robust defence provided by the Department for Education for schools’ right to fine parents in the case showed that the structure was in place to encourage parents to get their children into school.
He said: “We have always been clear: absences during term time should only occur in very exceptional circumstances, such as illness and family emergencies.
“Every day in school counts, and every lesson counts. Fines are an absolute last resort, and only given if families have had the support they need to try and improve their absence rates.”
Mr Northcott added that he could sympathise with parents taking children out of school for term-time holidays, and that the increase of package holiday prices during school holidays should be investigated.
Do you think that parents should be fined for unauthorised school absences? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below or emailing April.Roach@archant.co.uk.