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Number of Norfolk and Suffolk parents fined for children’s truancy falls dramatically

PUBLISHED: 07:02 12 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:58 12 August 2017

Children in a classroom. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Children in a classroom. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The number of parents in Norfolk and Suffolk fined for their children’s truancy fell dramatically over just two years.

In the 2014/15 school year, Norfolk County Council issued 5,215 fines to parents for truancy - a figure which fell to just 930 in 2016/17.

And far fewer parents in both counties were taken to court after refusing to pay their fine - down from 369 to 164 in Norfolk and 617 to 209 in Suffolk.

While the fines cover all forms of truancy, term time holidays have proved most divisive in the last few years, with schools maintaining that every day in the classroom is crucial, but some parents arguing they should be able to decide - and avoid hiked-up costs.

One father’s landmark case - which argued that a child’s overall attendance should be considered - gained magistrate and high court backing in 2015 and 2016 and, though it was overturned at the supreme court in April, could, in part, explain the drop in fines locally.

People on Sea Palling beach enjoying the summer sun.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE People on Sea Palling beach enjoying the summer sun. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Sarah Abers, who lives in Great Yarmouth, lost her case after taking her two children out of school for a week-long holiday to Spain.

She said: “I welcome this drop - all parents know how important school is and no-one wants their child to miss out. Equally, children gain a lot of from travelling and, particularly at the end of a school year, it can be managed so they don’t miss much.”

She said it would be interesting to see whether the number of fines started to rise after the supreme court ruling.

In Suffolk, the number of fines fell from 5,294 in 2014/15 to 4,427 in 2016/17.

Jon Platt with wife Sally outside the Supreme Court. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire Jon Platt with wife Sally outside the Supreme Court. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Fewer prosecutions also means less council cash - Norfolk County Council made £154,860 from fines in 2014/15, but £32,460 in 2016/17.

In Suffolk, fine income fell from £228,780 to £199,500.

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said they had seen an improvement in attendance over the last year.

They added: “It is up to the head teacher to decide whether or not to authorise an absence. Fixed penalty notices are issued as a result of a referral from the school for unauthorised absence, in line with the attendance policy of the school and it is the council’s policy to support schools.”

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