Norfolk parent fined £360 for children’s school absences amid big rise in penalties across the region

More parents are being fined for taking their children out of school without permission since the government tightened rules on term-time holidays.

Previously, headteachers could grant up to 10 days leave in a school year in 'special circumstances', but since September government regulations have said no term-time leave is now allowed unless there are 'exceptional circumstances'.

There have been concerns that some parents are tempted to book holidays during school time because they are often cheaper than those during school holidays.

Local authorities can issue fines of £60 for unauthorised absences, increased to £120 if it is not paid on time, and Norfolk County Council revealed that one parent in the county had been fined a total of £360 for their three children.

Cambridgeshire County Council said the total amount it had fined parents so far this year was £3,000, compared to £900 in the whole of 2012-13. The number of fines increased to 79, from 32, in the same period.

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Suffolk County Council said the number of fixed penalty notices issued had nearly quadrupled since the new rules came into effect, with 45 issued in autumn term 2013 compared to 12 in autumn term 2012, while the total collected in fines increased to £1,200, from £240.

Norfolk County Council said it issued 11 fixed penalty notices in autumn term 2013, compared to just one in the same period last year.

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Ian Clayton, headteacher of Thorpe St Andrew School, said the school did not want to target fines at parents who only took pupils out of school on holiday, but could if this was combined with persistent absences.

He said the school would hold meetings with parents and pupils if there was a problem with absences, and set targets for it to improve, and fines would only be considered later the process.

Hewett School associate headteacher Rob Anthony said his school did not use fines, and said he had heard of parents elsewhere sending in holiday request forms with a cheque attached to cover the cost of a fine.

He said: 'It means that families that can afford to take holidays in term time will continue to do so because the amount they save from going on holiday in term time far outweighs the fine.'

He said the Hewett meets parents to try to get to the bottom of why a child does not attend school regularly, and sometimes that can lead to court action.

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