Hundreds of South Tyneside parents fined over kids’ school absence

More than 600 parents in South Tyneside have been fined for their children playing truant.
More than 600 parents in South Tyneside have been fined for their children playing truant.

More than 600 parents in South Tyneside have been fined for taking their children out of school during term time last year.

South Tyneside Council has confirmed that 626 parents were charged during the 2014/15 academic year because of absenteeism and truancy – compared with 197 in 2013/14.

The figures emerged as The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils across the country, called for rules to be changed to give heads greater flexibility to allow parents to take their children on holiday during term time.

The LGA’s children’s chief councillor Roy Perry said: “Giving families time to be on holiday together can have social and emotional benefits which are of lasting value and support to children.

“It should not be something for which they are unduly punished.”

In Sunderland, 115 parents have been fined for taking their children out of school during the academic year from September 2014 to July 2015.

Nationally statistics show that the number of fines given to parents for taking their children on holiday during term time has almost trebled in two years – with tens of thousands handed out last year alone.

Figures obtained by the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the last academic year alone, at least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips.

This is up 25% on the year before, when at least 40,218 penalties were given out, and up 173% from the 18,484 fines handed out by local authorities in 2012/13.

These figures cover 71 councils that provided data for all three years.

Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families at South Tyneside Council, said: “Although there has been a marked increase in the number of parents receiving fines since 2013, this is as a result of changes in Government policy around holidays in term time and more cases being referred by headteachers to the local authority.

“Research shows that young people achieve far better outcomes when they attend school regularly. We would urge parents to 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. Prevention and early intervention are priorities.”