Truancy fines rocket

Truancy. Picture posed by models
Truancy. Picture posed by models

THE number of parents being fined for taking their children out of school on holiday during term time has rocketed, shocking new figures show.

THE number of paents being fined for taking their children out of school on holiday during term time has rocketed, shocking new figures show.

Wigan schools handed out 33 fines for breaks taken outside of the official holidays in 2013-14 compared to just five given in 2012-13.

The figures, released by Wigan Council, also shows the enormous scale of truancy in the borough, with 353 parents given education penalty notices (EPNs) in 2013-14 and 341 handed out in 2012-13 for unauthorised absences.

In addition, two parents were prosecuted in the magistrates’ courts for not paying fines given out for term-time holidays over the two years and more than 150 Wigan folk were put in the dock for their children’s unauthorised absences.

The figures for the current academic year look little better with 253 EPNs dished out between September 2014 and March 2015, 17 of them relating to parents taking their children on holiday when they should be in the classroom.

A Wigan Council spokesman said: “Wigan has a strong focus on ensuring that all children are in school all of the time.

“Our education service works with other services across the borough to support children and their families and to ensure that children can overcome the barriers that are preventing them from attending school.

“By continuing to work together we can make sure that the issuing of EPNs to parents is avoided and we can ensure children do not miss out on valuable education.”

Parents given EPNs are expected to pay £60, which rises to £120 if the initial fine is not settled. The penalties are given out when a child has 10 unauthorised sessions of absence in a set period of time and then is also out of the classroom without adequate explanation during a three-week warning period.

If the bigger fine is still not paid parents are then taken to court for failing to ensure their offspring’s regular attendance at school.

The number of court cases is also rising, with 88 parents brought before the magistrates in 2013-14 compared to 66 the previous academic year. So far this year 33 parents have been to court over unauthorised absence.

Fines handed out by the courts ranged from £37 to £400 for the most serious incidents of children not getting an education.

However, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it understood why parents chose to beat holiday price hikes and said more should be done to give families a fairer deal.

It also criticised the government for a narrow obsession with targets and exam results which it said were causing people to become disenchanted with school.

Max Atkins, secretary of Wigan NUT, said: “It is not surprising that parents continue to take their children out of school in term-time for a much-needed holiday when we have had five years of pay freezes or pay rises below inflation.”

“Cash-strapped parents are clearly still making huge savings by going on holiday in school time, even with fines of up to £120. Rather than picking on parents, this government needs to stop companies bumping up prices in the holidays, and give hard-working families proper pay rises so they do not have to do this.

“Regarding truancy, the fault once again lies with this government Forcing all pupils to do a more academically-focused curriculum at the expense of the arts, and the pressure on teachers to get all pupils to constantly jump through hoops that get smaller and more frequent, is enough to turn anyone off school.

“Education needs to be broad and balanced, the pace needs to be different for each pupil, and exams should be done in modules. This way, school will be the enjoyable experience it should be and not this relentless charge to reach the top of a flawed international league table that is wrecking many pupils’ lives.”