School Term Time Holiday Absence Fines On the Increase

News / January 19, 2016

The national schools policy fining parents when children take holidays during term time is falling apart. The judgement falls to the head teacher who often is reluctant to enforce the fine.

Although the total fines applied during 2014 – 15 were substantially up at 86k compared to the 62k from 2013-14 and 32k in 2012-13, there are marked regional differences. The situation has been further clouded by a court case on the Isle of Wight where a father won against the judgement to fine him for taking his six-year daughter out of school for a holiday.

The £60 fine increases to £120 if not paid within 14 days but many parents believe the savings on the out of season holidays more than offsets the fine. Ignoring the impact of a child’s schooling is this state of affairs anarchy or just sound financial management?

The figures in Yorkshire for example show 23k fines issued last year, nigh on 37 per cent of the national total, that generated £23k. But whilst 10 schools in the region issued 100 fines over 500 schools in Yorkshire issued no fines at all. The case for inner cities versus rural locations does not reveal any substantial variance. For example the conurbations of Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford and Doncaster issued 3k fines out of the county total of 23k.

Judging by the figures there is no rationale to support the fines. Headteachers are caught between the significant interruptions to a child’s schooling caused by an absence on holiday. Although this arguably has lesser impact in primary school, there may still be a key element of teaching a child may miss completely, which the teacher could unable to recap in a crowed classroom. Missing secondary schooling has significantly greater impact.

There is also the issue whereby Headteachers feel disinclined to act as the school police. Responsibility for issuing a fine and chase payment even if allocated to the local authority still requires a degree of paperwork that diverts effort away from the primary objective of teaching. There is of course the potential for some conflict with those parents issued with a fine.

A child’s attendance at school along with performance in exams are among key measures of achievement by which the school targets are set. This again may be an influence in the issue or waiving of non-attendance fines. The root trouble in the scheme is its possible manipulation or avoidance, which really means it is not working.

Alistair Owens



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