Rise in fines for term-time absences in Yorkshire

Families in parts of Yorkshire are facing more fines for term-time absences than almost anywhere else in the country, new research has found.

An investigation has discovered that of the four strictest councils in England and Wales, three were in Yorkshire with just one in Lancashire issuing more fines.

Parents in Doncaster, Bradford and Leeds have been handed more than 10,000 fines in total for the academic year 2014/15, the research by Santander revealed.

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“We believe that the best place for children to be during term time is in school,” said Nigel Richardson, director of children’s services at Leeds City Council.

“Children with poor attendance tend to achieve less well in both primary and secondary school.”

The Santander investigation, based on a series of Freedom of Information requests, found that parents nationwide paid £5.6m in 92,784 fines.

This figure is up 267 per cent in the two years since the Government’s guidance on term-time absences was introduced.

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Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council issued 3,559 fines, Bradford Metropolitan Council 3,445 and Leeds City Council 3,435, the FOI investigation revealed.

Only Lancashire Council, at 4,279, issued more fines in the 2014 to 15 academic year.

“Neither we nor our schools have any choice but to abide by the law, so it is not surprising that the number of fixed penalty notices has increased since 2012,” added Mr Richardson.

Damian Allen, director of learning opportunities and skills at Doncaster Council, said: “Regular attendance at school is very important for every child.

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“We will continue to promote the importance of regular school attendance to all parents and where appropriate issue fines and take court action.”

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Reducing unauthorised absence from schools remains a priority in Bradford.

“When children are absent from school it seriously impacts on their ability to learn and make progress.

“Fines are issued in Bradford for both irregular attendance and unauthorised leave of absence and holidays in term time.

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“The use of penalty notice fines has seen the number of days lost to term time holidays fall by more than a third between September 2012 and July 2015 and we fully expect that fall to continue through 2015/16.”

The fines of £60 are in accordance with Government guidance, which states that all children between the ages of five and 16 must get an education.

Term-time absences, including holidays, can only be agreed with the permission of a headteacher and in “exceptional” circumstances.

The guidance has come under fire from some families as they face price rises of up to 68 per cent to take breaks in school holidays.