Getting tough on holiday skiving in Doncaster

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MORE than 500 fines have been dished out in less than three years to Doncaster parents who take their children on holiday in school term time.

Figures obtained by The Star show 546 fixed penalty fines have been issued since September 2009 to mums and dads who took their children away when they should have been in lessons.

Another 532 fines have been given out since September 2010 for unauthorised absence from the borough’s schools.

Concerns have been raised about the fines hitting parents who would otherwise struggle to afford holidays during expensive periods.

But education bosses at Doncaster Council say pupil absence has been reduced because of truancy patrols and a zero tolerance approach from schools.

Days lost in 2009/10 were 73,834 - a figure that fell to 72,017 in 2010/11. The figure from April to September for 2011/12 is 28,186, but does not include several schools which have become academies.

A total of 107 fines were issued for parents taking children on holidays in term time in 2009/10. That rose to 236 in 2010-11. So far this academic year it is 203.

And 314 fines were dished out to parents for unauthorised child absence in 2010-11. There have been 218 so far this year.

The director of Doncaster Council’s children and young people’s service, Chris Pratt, said: “Any child who is missing out on their education is of concern to us.

“We recognise odd days may be sometimes lost due to extenuating circumstances, however we do a lot of work with our schools and families to raise awareness around the importance of regular pupil attendance.

“We know good attendance leads to better achievement and better opportunities, and these are outcomes all of Doncaster’s children and young people deserve.”

The council has been running truancy patrols, and stopped 30 youngsters on Friday. Of those 18 were accompanied by parents. Officials at the authority says the have stopped as many as 100 in the past.

Parents and grandparents in Doncaster yesterday were concerned about the fines - but backed the crackdown on general truancy.

Jodie Carter, aged 30, of Hexthorpe, said: “I don’t think fines are right for holiday absence - holidays are cheaper in term time. But if children are just twagging, then something needs to be done.”

Sean Leighton, aged 40, of Balby Bridge, said he thought there may be people in jobs who had to take their holidays outside the school holidays, and it was unfair to punish them.

He added: “A two week holiday is not forever.”

Sam Adwick, aged 41, of Cantley, said she did not take her children away during term time.

But said: “It is a lot more expensive to take children on holiday during the school holidays. I wish I could take them when it’s cheaper, but I can’t because of the fines.

“Holiday companies should put the prices down during the school holidays and that would solve the problem.”

Geoff Fowler, aged 69, of Hatfield, said: “Children should be given time to go on holiday during the term. Half the people can’t afford to go on holiday during the school holidays.”

But he agreed with fining parents who let their children run wild instead of going to school.