Council made £55,000 in ‘truancy tax’ after parents fined for not sending kids to school

The fines have been issued for kids not attending school.
The fines have been issued for kids not attending school.

Hundreds of parents have been fined for failing to send their children to school as council chiefs crack down on truancy and unauthorised absences.

South Tyneside Council issued 924 unauthorised absence fines - almost three a day - during the last full school year, taking in £55,440.

Coun Joan Atkinson

Coun Joan Atkinson

The figures - the result of a national Freedom of Information request - show the council is among the most diligent in the region at imposing the national rules regarding absences from school.

Education penalty notices start at £60 and rise to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

In the same period, Newcastle City Council issued 154, Sunderland handed out 134 and North Tyneside issued 108.

Only Durham County Council issued more - handing out 927.

Council leaders say they ‘remain committed to working closely with schools, parents and carers to address the root causes of poor attendance’.

Julie Robertson from solicitors Simpson Millar, which compiled the figures, called for councils to be more consistent in the way they handle the issue.

She said: “These figures are staggering. Even though some cities clearly have more school children on their books than others, it seems that certain areas are particularly prolific when it comes to handing out fines for unauthorised absence.”

“What one head teacher agrees are special circumstances, another doesn’t. It is a postcode lottery. We need more consistency.”

None of South Tyneside’s fines were challenged because there is no right to appeal.

Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families, at South Tyneside Council, said: “We know children who attend school regularly perform better and gain better qualifications than those with poorer attendance.

“Absence can cause a child’s education to suffer as lessons and extra-curricular activities are missed and continuity of work is lost.”

Council bosses say they are waiting for further guidance from the Department of Education.

Coun Atkinson added: “We encourage parents to ensure their children attend school and avoid taking their children out of school during term time. Our schools have been very diligent about applying the new rules around holidays in term time.

“We are still waiting for the promised further guidance from the Department for Education to help clarify the situation following the High Court ruling earlier this year.”