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Number of parents fined for taking children out of school hits record high

PUBLISHED: 12:02 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 14:11 11 February 2020

Record numbers of penalty notices have been issued to Norfolk parents who took children out of school without permission. Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Record numbers of penalty notices have been issued to Norfolk parents who took children out of school without permission. Pic: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

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The number of penalty notices issued to Norfolk parents for taking their children out of school without permission hit has hit a record high.

And the 63pc surge in the number of the penalty notices issued by Norfolk schools for unauthorised school absences was the second biggest hike in the country.

They went up from 4,257 in 2017/18 to 6,974 in 2018/19. The previous high was 5,215 in 2015/16.

And the money raised from those fines increased from just under £220,000 to a little over £375,000, which is an increase of nearly 71pc.

Parents can be fined £60 if their child misses school without permission, but the cost of going abroad during holidays has led to parents taking children out of school during term time.

John Fisher, Norfolk County and Broadland District councillor for Thorpe St Andrew. Photo: Broadland District CouncilJohn Fisher, Norfolk County and Broadland District councillor for Thorpe St Andrew. Photo: Broadland District Council

The fine rises to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days and parents who fail to pay can be prosecuted.

In 545 of Norfolk cases, fines were not paid within 28 days and triggered court action.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, said: "Our role is to advise schools on interpreting the national guidance on when fixed penalty notices should be issued - the decision on whether to issue a fine lies with each individual school. Once the school has decided whether to issue a fine, we then pursue cases on their behalf through the courts.

"It is our position that every day in school counts for all children and that attendance and performance are linked.

Dean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. 
The case against them for not paying a fine issued by Suffolk County Council was dismissed in 2016 .

PHOTO: Nick ButcherDean Pierpoint with his wife Lorraine and children, Lola, Riley and Preston. The case against them for not paying a fine issued by Suffolk County Council was dismissed in 2016 . PHOTO: Nick Butcher

"We have not changed our advice to schools or operating procedures since 2018. The increase in referrals indicates that schools are working hard to address pupil absence from school and looking, in partnership with the local authority, to use enforcement measures where necessary to ensure the best outcomes for children."

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Suffolk County Council issued 7,289 notices last year, compared to 6,271 the year before, which was a rise of 16.2pc. The revenue collected from those fines went up by 13.6pc, from just over £295,000 to just over £336,095.

The statistics were revealed through a Freedom Of Information Act request submitted by training course provider The Knowledge Academy.

Councils can only use the money for the administration of the scheme, including enforcement.

MORE: Which Norfolk schools prosecuted the most parents over truancy?



Case Study

A family fined for taking their children out of school during term time - so they could join them at their wedding - won their fight.

Dean and Lorraine Pierpoint took two of their children out of Pakefield Primary School in May 2016, to attend their wedding in Florida.

Suffolk County Council took them to court for not paying.

But the couple won their case at Great Yarmouth in December 2016, when magistrates decided there was no case to answer.

Mr Pierpoint said their solicitor argued there was no legal definition of regular attendance and successfully moved for the case to be dismissed.

A Supreme Court decision in 2017 clarified the legal definition of attendance, which may explain part of the local and national increase in notices.

Nationally, more than 260,000 penalty notices were issued to parents last year, some 110,000 up on the previous year.

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