Almost 100 fines issued per week for Leeds parents taking children on term time holidays

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BEFORE A Government crackdown on unauthorised school absence was launched there were just over 100 fines issued to Leeds parents over the course of an academic year .

Now the council is handing out close to 100 fines every week after schools and local authorities were told parents taking children out of school for holidays during term time was no longer acceptable.

In a 39 week school year more than 3,800 fines were issued to parents in Leeds - the vast majority for taking holidays in term time.

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In Leeds the number of parents fined for any unauthorised absence since guidelines were tightened up has increased from 219 in 2012/13 to 2,320 in 2013/14 and up again to 3,824 in the 2014/15 academic year.

The number of fines specifically for taking pupils on holiday in term time has risen even more sharply.

In 2012/13 - before the guidelines for schools changed there were 105 parents fined across Leeds for taking pupils out of school without permission. Under the previous system schools could allows parents up to ten days .

Under the new system the number of fines increased to 2,180 in 2013/14 and to 3,573 in the academic year which has just finished. Coun Lucinda Yeadon, the city council’s executive member for children’s services said: “Following the introduction of new government legislation in September 2013 which removed head teachers’ discretion to authorise any absence during term time for holidays, we have seen an increase in the number of fines issued for unauthorised leave during term time – which is to be expected.”

However she said that the city had recorded its best ever attendance in 2013/14 and said the council “always encouraged parents to think twice before booking holidays during term time”.

Penalty Notice fines are £60 per parent per child if paid within 21 days. If not paid within 21 days but within 28 days the fine doubles to £120. If parents have still not paid after this they can face prosecution.

Leeds City Council said the revenue from payment of fines is retained by the authority to cover the cost of administering the penalty notice scheme, and to cover the cost of prosecuting parents that fail to pay their fine.

The Department for Education has insisted it is right to restrict unauthorised absences and says its policy has improved school attendance. A Department for Education spokeswoman said: It is a myth that children missing school is harmless to their education and life chances”. She said this was it had toughening up on term-time holidays and attendance adding: The most recent figures show we have made real progress - with 200,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school compared with five years ago.

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