Thousands of parents fined for taking children out of school

Barnet Council uses the thousands raised from fines to cover the costs of collecting them. Picture:

Barnet Council uses the thousands raised from fines to cover the costs of collecting them. Picture: Barnet Council - Credit: Archant

Local authorities across north London doubled down on parents taking their children out of school last year with the number of fines issued rising by 68 per cent.

Parents across Camden, Haringey and Barnet were slapped with 2,791 fines over the course of 2018/19, compared to 1,659 the year before.

The councils, which issue unauthorised absence penalty notices on behalf of local schools, collected more than £93,000 as a result.

Research by course provider The Knowledge Academy found fines have soared across the UK - with more than 102,000 penalty notices issued in 2018/19, compared to 82,000 on 2017/18.

In Barnet 2,055 people were fined but £62,940 was collected, meaning around half of people either did not or could not pay.

The number of fines that went unpaid for more than 21 days - meaning the charge was ratcheted up to £120 - went from 570 to 1,006. But just 18 people were taken to court by Barnet for non-payment of fines, compared to 26 the year before.

A council spokesperson said: "There will be instances where penalties are issued but are later resolved because they stem from a misunderstanding between school and parent.

"Parents who repeatedly fail to comply with schools' expectations around attendance could ultimately face prosecution."

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The number of absences in Barnet remained static in 2018/19 but there was an increase in local schools asking for penalty notices to be issued. The increase follows a Supreme Court ruling in 2017 against Jon Platt, a father who refused to pay a fine for taking his daughter on holiday in term-time. The Barnet spokesperson said: "These financial penalties are intended to act as a deterrent. Every day of school that a child misses can potentially have a negative impact on their education."

In Camden the number of penalty notices jumped from 436 to 578, a 32.6pc increase. The council, which raised £31,000 from the fines, confirmed that the majority were issued to parents who took their children on holiday in term-time without the school's permission.

A spokesperson said: "The revenue is used to support schools improve attendance and punctuality with a range of resources and also additional training for school based staff."