Hundreds fined as children bunk off

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ALMOST 200 Wigan parents have found themselves in trouble for failing to ensure their children are going to school.

New figures released by the council show that between September and December last year, there were 191 Fixed Penalty Notices issued for unauthorised absences.

As a result, 18 cases were referred to Wigan Magistrates’ Court where guardians were charged with not paying the fee.

Of these, three of the fines were for parents taking their youngster out of school early to go on holiday.

Last September, the government introduced tougher regulations on term-time absence for holidays.

Parents in England and Wales have a legal responsibility to ensure their child attends school, unless they have opted to home-educate them.

If they fail to do so, they are committing an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

Nationally, 34 councils across England had handed out 5,300 fines to parents in autumn.

But a spokesman for Wigan Council said it was happy with the figures and believes all schools are working well to drive truancy and unauthorised absences down. Assistant director for early intervention and prevention, Sue Astbury, said: “Schools across Wigan borough generally have a good level of pupil attendance and work well with us, and parents, on continuing to improve this.

“Good school attendance is fundamental to the achievement of better outcomes for children and young people and it’s an issue we take seriously. We are reinforcing this to parents who may be considering a holiday during term time, by raising awareness of the impact on their child’s learning when they miss school.

“Unlike many local authorities, we issue warnings to parents in the first instance and have found that most are responsive to this. If parents do not respond positively to the warning we are required to issue a fine.

“In Wigan borough there are 127 schools with around 42,500 children of statutory school age. Between September and December last year, 191 penalty notices were issued for unauthorised absences, just nine of which were for holidays.

“Clear guidance is available for parents from schools on the circumstances in which their child may be granted a period of absence during term time.”

Parents who are fined have 21 days to pay £60. Failure to pay will see the fine rising to £120 and parents will have 28 days to pay that.

If the fine is not paid, parents are reported for prosecution.