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School Fines Soar in St Helens

Friday, June 7th, 2019 7:44am

By Kenny Lomas - Local Democracy Reporter

The number of parents fined in St Helens for taking their children on holiday during term time soared in the last academic year, new data has revealed.

Parents in England can be issued a £60 fixed penalty notice (FPN) by the local authority per child taken out of school without permission.

The penalty rises to £120 if paid after 21 days and after 28 days parents can be prosecuted.

In St Helens, penalties may be issued where a pupil has missed at least 10 school days due to an unauthorised absence within a ten-week period.

The school’s head teacher must request a penalty notice from the local authority.

In 2017-18, St Helens Council issued 328 penalties to parents who took their children out of school for holidays during term time.

This is a 74 per cent rise on the previous academic year, which saw 189 penalties issued.

Of the total number of term-time holiday penalties issued in 2017-18, 230 were paid within 21 days, with one after 21 days.

As a result, the council received £13,920.

Money generated through FPNs stays with the council, but by law this income can only be spent on the administration of the penalties.

Out of the 328 fines issued in 2017-18, 81 were not paid while 16 were withdrawn.

In 2016-17, 160 out of 189 term-time holiday penalties were paid within 21 days, with the council receiving £9,600.

A total of 27 fines were not paid and two were withdrawn.

The rise in the number of penalty notices in St Helens mirrors the national picture.

Figures from the Department for Education for 2017-18 show that local authorities issued more than 260,000 penalty notices to parents for unauthorised absences, the highest number on record.

Of that figure, 223,000 penalties were issued because of unauthorised holidays.

The rise has been largely attributed to a supreme court ruling last year following a two-year legal battle involving Isle of Wight parent, Jon Platt.

In April 2017, the supreme court upheld a fine issued by Isle of Wight local authority to Platt, who took his daughter to Florida for a week in 2015 without the school’s approval.

Following the ruling, there was a sharp rise in the number of penalties issues by local authorities across the country.

Despite the 74 per cent increase in St Helens, a council spokesman said fixed penalties for holidays in term time are expected to drop this academic year.

“In the 2017-18 academic year, fines for holidays in term time increased significantly in St Helens on the previous year, as in many places across the country,” the spokesman said.

“These figures can fluctuate according to school holiday patterns and the number of FPNs for holidays in term time is expected to drop in St Helens this academic year.

“The number of FPNs requested by schools in St Helens demonstrates that our schools take attendance very seriously, since any absence from school can have a harmful impact on a child’s learning.”

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