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4,000 Norfolk parents fined for taking children out of school for family holidays

PUBLISHED: 06:40 22 March 2019 | UPDATED: 06:40 22 March 2019

Unauthorised family holidays were the most common reason for pupil absence penalty notices handed out to parents in Norfolk in 2017/18, according to Department for Education figures. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Unauthorised family holidays were the most common reason for pupil absence penalty notices handed out to parents in Norfolk in 2017/18, according to Department for Education figures. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Just over 4,000 parents in Norfolk were fined for taking their child out of school for a family holiday in the last academic year.

Data from the Department for Education (DfE) shows 4,257 penalty notices were issued to parents and carers in Norfolk for unauthorised pupil absence in 2017/18 – a significant rise from the 1,300 issued in the previous year, but down from a high of 5,215 in 2015/16.

Of these almost 95pc (4,009) were given for an “unauthorised family holiday”.

The number of fines issued for pupil absence in England has sky-rocketed from 25,657 in 2009/10 to 260,877 in 2017/18, rising by more than 60pc in the past year alone.

While local authorities are responsible for issuing and pursuing penalty notices, following guidance from the DfE, schools are responsible for setting their own policies and punishments for pupil absence.

Father-of-two Daniel Attwell came up against policy irregularities when trying to book a family trip to Dublin last year to watch his eldest daughter Rosie compete in a baton twirling competition.

While sixth form student Rosie was allowed to take the holiday, her nine-year-old sister Lucy’s school refused the holiday request. After returning from the trip he and his wife each received a £120 penalty notice for the absence.

Mr Attwell, 43, said the procedures for absence authorisation were “riddled with holes”.

“What I find most frustrating is that there was no means of appeal without taking it to court with a risk of huge costs,” he said.

“The school had no flexibility. I felt really aggrieved by the whole thing.”

Of the penalty notices for absence issued in Norfolk in 2017/18, 84pc were paid within four weeks, but 379 cases – almost 9pc – ended in a prosecution.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We will use our legal powers to enforce school attendance, where this is appropriate and in-line with the government’s guidelines. This is a deterrent for those who ignore their legal responsibility to ensure that their children attend school regularly.

“We also provide support and guidance to schools, as well as additional help to families who might be struggling to get their children to school.”


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