Number of parents fined for poor school attendance rockets almost 75%

The number of parents fined for their children’s poor attendance at school has rocketed by 74.7%, figures show.

There has been an increase in the number of penalty notices issued from 149,300 in 2016/17 to 260,877 in 2017/18, according to data from the Department for Education.

The most common reason for a penalty notice being issued was unauthorised family holiday absence.

A total of 85.4% of the penalty notices were issued for this reason in 2017/18, up from 77.5% in 2016/17.

The DfE said amendments to regulations and a number of high-profile court cases may have affected trends in recent years.

The rise in fines comes after father Jon Platt lost a case at the Supreme Court in April 2017.

Jon Platt
Jon Platt

Mr Platt initially won a high-profile High Court case in May 2016 over taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission.

Previous figures suggest that after this ruling, many parents decided to take term-time breaks believing it was unlikely they would face action for doing so.

But the case was later referred to the Supreme Court, where Mr Platt lost.

The latest increase in the number of fines issued appears to be due to councils getting clarity from the Supreme Court judgment.

The DfE said it contacted a small sample of local authorities with large changes about the increase in 2017/18.

It said: “All six that responded cited that the Supreme Court judgment in this case had an effect on the number of penalty notices issued in 2017/18, either as a result of returning to pre-court case levels following a slowdown or from a change in behaviour as a result of the ruling.”

Of the 222,904 notices issued for unauthorised holiday in 2017/18, the five areas with the most were Lancashire (7,575), Bradford (6,687), Hampshire (6,616), Essex (6,603) and Derbyshire (5,567).

Of the 260,877 notices issued overall in England in 2017/18, the five areas with the most were Essex (8,741), Hampshire (8,694), Lancashire (7,891), Bradford (6,849) and Suffolk (6,556).

The amount owed under a penalty notice is £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt, rising to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days.

If the penalty is not paid in full by the end of the 28-day period, the local authority must either prosecute for the original offence, or withdraw the notice.

Figures show 75% of penalty notices issued in 2017/18 were paid within 28 days, 10% were withdrawn, 7% led to prosecutions and 8% were unresolved at the end of the period.

Of the fines issued, 0.2% were for arriving late and 14.3% were for other unauthorised absence.

Separate data published by the DfE shows the percentage of pupils who missed at least one session due to a family holiday in 2017/18 was 17.6%, compared with 16.9% in 2016/17.

The overall absence rate across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools increased from 4.7% in 2016/17 to 4.8% in 2017/18.

The increase in the overall rate has been driven by rises in both the authorised and unauthorised absence rates.

The authorised absence rate increased from 3.4% to 3.5% in 2017/18, while the unauthorised rate rose from 1.3% to 1.4%.

The unauthorised absence rate in all schools is now at its highest since records began.