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Number of fines for taking children out of Kent schools slashed in half - but KCC missing £40,000 in penalties

PUBLISHED: 10:52 13 July 2017

Fines have reduced dramatically

Fines have reduced dramatically

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From September 2016 to July 2017, 1,221 parents were fined for unauthorised absences, compared to 3,504 in 2015/16

The number of fines issued to parents for taking their children out of Kent schools has been slashed in half on the previous year, but the county council has been unable to collect more than £40,000 of those penalties.

From September 2016 to July 2017, 1,221 parents were fined for unauthorised absences, compared to 3,504 in 2015/16 and 4,726 in 2014/15.

The drop is as a result in a change of policy to prosecute only parents whose child’s attendance at school falls to 90 per cent or below, following a court case in which a parent was excused a fine for taking his daughter on holiday in term time because the child’s attendance was better than 90 per cent.

This judgement has now been overturned by the courts and following the Supreme Court decision on April 6 this year, the threshold of 90 per cent attendance rate has now been removed.

The spirit of the Supreme Court decision is that children should be in school for 190 days, which is every day for the whole school year.

The previous threshold of 90 per cent suggested it was acceptable for children to miss 10 per cent, which means missing 19 school days - or one day every fortnight.

Roger Gough, cabinet member for children, young people and education at Kent County Council said: “In April this year, Kent County Council‘s Code of Conduct was further revised to bring it in line with the Supreme Court decision, removing the requirement for attendance below 90 per cent as a threshold for issuing a penalty notice.

“Although the overall number of penalty notices issued in 2016/17 was lower than previous years following a previous court judgement, the Supreme Court decision has resulted in a recent substantial increase in the number of penalty notice requests received by KCC.

“In June KCC received 846 requests, by comparison in May we received 402.

“Apart from issuing Penalty Notices, Kent County Council prosecutes parents whose children have unauthorised absences from school.

“Since May 2016, Kent County Council has successfully prosecuted 166 cases for children’s unauthorised absences.

“We believe pupils must attend school regularly in order to make good progress and to benefit fully from education provision.

“The local authority and the schools provide a wide range of support including the interventions of the Early Help Service for the parents who have genuine family issues that affect their children’s attendance. Kent schools’ attendance rate has improved in the past year to nearly 96 per cent.”

If all the fines for the 1,221 penalty notices were paid on time, the total amount received would be around £73,260.

However, in the past year, only 43 per cent of the parents have paid the fines, resulting in actual total payments of an estimated £31,500.

This covers the council’s costs of administering penalty notices and contributes in a small way to funding our staff to support families that are finding it difficult to get their children into school.

Furthermore, for the 57 per cent of the parents who refused to pay, the local authority is taking further legal action, prosecuting the parents for their children’s unauthorised absences.

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