School fines for Leeds parents soar despite ‘best ever attendance’

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Fines for Leeds pupils’ poor attendance have rocketed by more than 1,000 per cent in the past three years.

Figures today revealed by the Yorkshire Evening Post as part of our Your Right to Know campaign show that parents were hit with penalty notices totalling £126,720 between 2012 and 2015.

A staggering £100,380 of that was handed over in 2014, following the Government’s introduction of new laws amounting to a ban on term-time holidays.

Since the controversial legislation was introduced in September 2013 the city’s families have been forced to cough up more than 11 times the £8,880 paid out in 2012, after youngsters skipped school without permission.

But a Leeds City Council spokesman said the zero-tolerance approach appeared to be working, with fewer pupils now missing lessons.

He said: “Despite the rise in the number of fines, it would seem the majority of parents are taking notice of the new legislation as Leeds had the best ever attendance in the autumn term and a fall in the rate of absence due to holidays.

Children in the city have spent an extra 400,000 days in school in 2013-14 than in 2010-11.

“These parents understand the importance of ensuring their children attend school regularly.” He said although the number of fines had risen, it was still a relatively small figure – less than two per cent of around 100,000 children attending Leeds schools.

According to the latest figures published by the Department for Education, primary attendance in Leeds has improved from 94.4 per cent in 2010 to 96.4 per cent in 2014 – above the national figure of 96.2 per cent.

Secondary attendance has improved from 91.6 per cent in 2010 to 94.6 per cent in 2014 – below the 94.9 per cent nationally.

Councillor Judith Blake, the council’s executive member for Children’s Services, said: “We have just received the best ever attendance figures for Leeds, as our most recent statistics show children in the city have spent an extra 400,000 days in school in 2013-14 than they did in 2010-11. This means over 2,500 more children are regularly attending school, compared to 2010.”

The authority’s efforts to increase attendance were praised in its recent Ofsted report, which rated children’s services as good, with outstanding leadership.

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All children aged between five and 16 are required by law to receive an education.

From September 2013, a change to the law means schools are no longer allowed to authorise requests for children to be taken out of school for a holiday during term time.

Parents or carers will be issued with a penalty notice if they fail to ensure that their children attend school regularly.

Fines are £60 per child per parent if paid within 21 days, and £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days. If the fine is not paid, parents will be reported for prosecution.