Parents in Cheshire West have been fined almost £130,000 for their children’s non-attendance at school including pupils playing truancy but also those who choose to take their kids on holiday in term-time.
Mums and dads across the country are fined £60 per parent per child per period of unauthorised absence, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
A Fixed Penalty Notice can only be issued if the leave of absence is for at least five consecutive school days during term time. Only the headteacher can waive the charge in the event of exceptional circumstances.
Figures provided by Cheshire West and Chester Council reveal that over a five year period (2010-2015) 2,168 notices were issued, generating income of £93,350 as at May 20, 2015. No fewer than 304 cases ended up in court over the same time period leading to fines totalling £35,129 with the fine and victim surcharge paid to the court but costs paid to the council towards prosecution expenses.
Some parents believe the system is too inflexible especially because travel companies bump up their prices during school holidays.
Mrs Sandra Hughes, from Lache, who is pleased the fines didn’t apply when her four grown-up children were in school, said: “In those days you didn’t get a fine but I think it’s wrong. I wouldn’t have been able to afford to take them on holiday.”
She added: “They are trying to make money all the time and it’s wrong. It’s a lot of money when you’re a single parent.”
Businessmen and brothers Earon and Zafor Ali, from Newton, run a city centre restaurant and school holidays are their busiest time.
Earon, a father-of-four, said: “When you’re working you can’t take the kids any where. They should let us go away for a week or so without any fines.”
Last summer his wife took their daughter and two sons to his parents’ homeland in Bangladesh to meet family and learn about their culture. She had wanted to stay 'a bit longer' but he was put off by the prospect of fines.
“I said to my wife in the end if you want to stay a bit longer, stay, because the money they are charging us for the air tickets, you might as well stay there for another couple more weeks, I’ll pay the penalty if I have to,” added Mr Ali, but in the event his family returned on time.
Mark Parkinson, the council’s head of education, said: “In 2013 the Department for Education implemented amendments to legislation surrounding holidays in term time. The changes to the law means that parents do not have an entitlement to take their child on holiday during term time.
“The reason for the change was that in the previous academic year, nearly 10 percent of all absences in England were due to parents taking their children out of school during term time.
“Any applications by parents for leave of absence must be in exceptional circumstances. It is a headteacher decision whether to grant leave of absence but they must be satisfied that the circumstances warrant it. Headteachers can trigger a Fixed Penalty Notice and parents can be fined via the local authority for taking their child on holiday during term time without consent from the school.
“In accordance with Government guidance, revenue raised from penalty charge notices is used to fund the administration of the scheme.”