Term-time holidays account for nearly all Doncaster school absence fines as borough is among highest areas in England for penalties

Nearly all of the fines handed to Doncaster parents for children not attending school were down to unauthorised holidays, figures have shown.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 3:32 pm
Schools

Data from the Department for Education also ranks Doncaster as one of the highest areas for unauthorised absence penalties handed to parents and carers in the whole country.

Figures show that 1,138 penalty notices were issued to Doncaster parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – though measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.

DMBC issued more fines than almost any other local authority in the country – accounting for two per cent of all penalty notices handed out across England.

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Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down 89 per cent from 9,906 in 2018-19.

Doncaster Council, who issue the fines under the rules set by the Department for Education, said once a school has referred an unauthorised absence to them, a fine is issued provided if it ‘meets the criteria’.

Education bosses within DMBC said the priority in this area is to ‘work with families’ in order to boost attendances.

Riana Nelson, director of learning, skills and opportunities at Doncaster Council, said: “Approximately 99 per cent of the fines issued last year were due to term time holidays. Whilst Doncaster’s figures do appear high compared to the national average, it is also true that rates of families taking term time holidays is also comparatively high in Doncaster.

“Whilst fines are a part of the current unauthorised absence process, Doncaster’s priority will always be to work with families to support children and young people to attend their chosen education setting, and raising awareness of the importance of this in enabling them to thrive.

“We have worked hard across the local partnership since the start of the pandemic to ensure that we work positively to ensure that schools are open and that children can attend. Despite the many challenges to schools and families over the course of the last two years, we are pleased that rates of school attendance in Doncaster have continued to improve.

Councillor Lani-Mae Ball, cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “I understand the frustrations of parents and carers wanting to save money by taking their children on holidays during term-time, but we must ensure that our children are in school and getting the education they need and deserve. We will continue to work with schools and families to reduce the numbers of unauthorised absences and fines.”