Thousands of Sheffield parents fined for taking children on term-time holidays

School girls playing truant. Pic: PA
School girls playing truant. Pic: PA
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More than 6,000 fines have been issued to parents whose children have missed school in Sheffield in the past three years.

And most have been handed to parents who take their children on holiday during term-time, rather than pay sky-high prices during school holidays.

A Freedom of Information response by Sheffield Council reveals a total of 6,512 truancy fines have been issued, but more than 1,600 were withdrawn – meaning 4,893 people have paid fines for their children failing to go to school.

In the 2013-14 academic year, 1,346 fines were issued – 1,199 for unauthorised holidays and 147 for non-attendance – but 455 of the fines were eventually withdrawn.

In 2014-15, 3,036 holiday fines and 107 attendance fines were sent out, a total of 3,143. But 762 of these fines were later withdrawn.

So far this year, 1,810 families have been issued with fines notices for taking children on holiday during term time, while 213 people have been fined for their children failing to attend school regularly. A total of 402 of this year’s fines have now been withdrawn.

Term-time holidays have seen thousands of parents fined in Sheffield

Term-time holidays have seen thousands of parents fined in Sheffield

Sheffield Council has collected at least £293,000 from the £60 fines – which rise to £120 if they are not paid within three weeks.

The council says the money is ‘reinvested in resources to support attendance’.

Those who do not pay the increased fine within a further week can be taken to court.

Hundreds of parents have faced legal action but the FoI reveals 347 prosecutions have been started and then withdrawn by the council in the last three years. One of the main reasons fines are withdrawn is when the council decides it is not in the public interest to take a case to court.

Other reasons include them being incorrectly issued, sent to the wrong person or there being exceptional circumstances for a child being off that a school has not taken into account.

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “Research shows that children who spend more time in education have higher attainment, and this is something we work closely with schools on in order to improve pupils’ attendance.

“Our big ambition is that all Sheffield children, young people and families achieve their full potential and attending school every day is an important part in this.

“Schools take different approaches depending on their individual circumstances and the children at their school.

“These decisions aren’t taken lightly by schools – but are taken in the interest of the child’s education. We work with schools to look at patterns and trends and collect the fines.

“This money is then re-invested in resources to support attendance.”

The council’s code of conduct on the issue says such fines are ‘never used as a punishment’ but as a way of attempting to improve attendance.

“Parents and pupils are supported at school and the local authority will work to overcome barriers to regular attendance through a wide continuum of assessment and intervention strategies,” it says.

“Sanctions of any nature are for use only where parental co-operation in this process is either absent, or deemed insufficient to resolve the presenting problem.

“Sanctions are never used as a punishment, only as a means of enforcing attendance where there is a reasonable expectation that their use will secure an improvement.”