Crackdown on term time holidays

Southend City Council issued more than £120,000 in fines to parents for unauthorised pupil absences during the last full school year, it has been revealed.

An investigation has revealed a staggering 818 per cent increase in the number of fines across Southend in the last three years as the council clamps down on parents taking their children out of school without permission.

In the 2021/22 school year, the local authority issued just 111 fines to parents, totalling £13,320.

However, that rocketed to 1,019 fines in 2022/23 totalling a whopping £122,280, according to figures obtained by Legal Expert.

The council said the increase in fines was down to a “significant increase in unauthorised absences and drive to improve attendance” nationally.

Parents who flout the rules of term-time holidays could be hit with hefty fines of £160 if they take their child out of school for a term-time break from this August.

The hike will come along with a new national framework which will require schools to consider fines when a child misses five or more days without permission.

Laurie Burton, councillor responsible for children’s services, said: “Since Covid there has developed a culture of poor attendance with some pupils. Although sometimes the reasons are genuine, often parents are letting their children stay home without good reason.

“At Southend we are committed to supporting schools achieve high attendance, and sanctions for deliberate persistent absences forms part of that strategy.”

According to the Department of Education, “fines are a last resort, and parents will be offered support to help improve their child’s attendance first”.

However, it does admit that “the vast majority of fines for unauthorised absence (89 per cent) are issued for term-time holidays”.

A Southend Council spokesman said: “The council has been working hard with its schools to support increased attendance and lower unauthorised absence throughout this last academic year as part of the ‘attendance is everyone’s business’ initiative.

“The increase in numbers reflects this drive to ensure Southend children and young people have the best education opportunities they can and to do this they need to attend school.”

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter