Parents hit with four times as many fines as more than 800 children missing from schools in South Tyneside

More parents fined for children being absent from school.
More parents fined for children being absent from school.

Nearly 900 pupils a day were missing from schools in South Tyneside over the course a year, new figures show.

The data also shows the number of fines handed to parents for their children’s poor school attendance increased four-fold compared to the previous year.

Coun Moira Smith.

Coun Moira Smith.

The Department for Education statistics show that South Tyneside’s state secondary school pupils missed 5.6% of their lesson time in the 2017/18 academic year.

Of those absences, more than 20% were unauthorised, including truancy or for family holidays and 14% of the 7,812 pupils in secondary schools were classed as persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% of their total learning time.

South Tyneside’s state primary school pupils missed 4.3% of their lesson time on average, with nearly 20% of absences unauthorised. Among primary pupils, 9% were persistent absentees.

Absence rates decreased slightly in secondary schools compared to 2016-17, when 5.8% of sessions were missed, but remained the same at 4.3% in primary schools.

In total, it means around 870 pupils were missing from primary and secondary school on the average day in 2017/18.

Meanwhile, the number of fines handed to parents for their children’s absence increased four-fold last year.

There were 1,083 penalty notices issued in 2017-18, up from 282 in 2016-17.

Coun Moira Smith, lead member for children, young people and families, said: “We want all our young people to fulfil their potential. 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.”

She added: “Overall absence in both our primary and secondary schools is in line with the national averages and unauthorised absence is significantly lower.

“We encourage parents and carers to ensure their children attend school and avoid taking their children out of school during term time. Since Government regulations changed in 2013 our schools have been very diligent about applying the new rules around holidays in term time.

“We continue to work closely with schools, parents and carers to address the root causes of poor attendance.”

Across England, the number of fines issued increased by 75% to over 260,000 in 2017-18 – 85% of them for unauthorised family holidays.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said requests for time off during term time can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, which he said does not normally include holidays.

He said: “The NAHT has clear and reasonable guidance on what constitutes exceptional circumstances.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The Education Secretary has made clear, persistent absence from school is a society-wide challenge that we all need to work together to resolve – and while significant progress has been made, today’s data shows that has now plateaued.

“High quality education and pastoral care will make a real difference to children’s life chances, and that’s particularly important for those who are most vulnerable, but clearly key initiatives will only work if children are present.”