Massive drop in school fines issued by Doncaster Council following landmark case

The number of parents being fined for taking their children on term-time holidays has plummeted in Doncaster this summer as a result of a landmark court case.

Monday, 29th August 2016, 8:45 am
Updated Monday, 29th August 2016, 9:56 am
The number of fines issued by Doncaster Council dropped from 616 in July last year to 61 - a fall of just over 90 per cent

Figures show a massive drop in the fines being issued in July this year compared with 12 months ago.

According to the new figures, the number of fines issued by Doncaster Council dropped from 616 in July last year to 61 - a fall of just over 90 per cent.

Damian Allen, Director of Learning Opportunities and Skills, said: “Regular attendance at school is very important for every child.

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"Doncaster Council will continue to promote the importance of regular school attendance to all parents and where appropriate issue Fixed Penalty Notices and take court action.

"Following the Platt court judgement, we took time to seek and clarify Department of Education advice and we are now issuing fines in line with the guidance given."

Local authorities across the region have also massively decreased the number of fines being issued for term-time holidays.

In Sheffield the council issued 900 fines in June 2015. But, according to figures from the authority this year it issued just three - a drop of more than 99 per cent.

In Kirklees, the number of fines issued in July more than halved from 326 in 2015 to 145 this year.

In June and July last year North Yorkshire issued 258 fines but this year it dropped to 29.

The council has said it changed its stance on issuing fines following High Court ruling.

It has suspended the issuing of penalty notices for unauthorised absence “if a child’s school attendance is 90 per cent and above in the preceding six months, including any holiday.” “This marks a change in our position,” said Pete Dwyer, North Yorkshire’s corporate director for the Children and Young People’s Service.

“Previously we followed Government guidance which stated that term-time absence could only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, which did not include holidays. If an absence was not authorised by the school this automatically triggered a penalty notice.

Following the ruling we are now waiting for further guidance from the DfE on this matter.” Kirklees Council said its policy had not changed. Mr Platt said:

“The crux of this is that the Government guidelines in 2013 changed the burden on headteachers who could no longer approve absences apart from in exceptional circumstances.

But they did not change the burden on parents.

Taking a child on an unauthorised absence is not a criminal offence - failing to make sure your child attends regularly is. “If the Government wants to make every unauthorised absence a criminal offence they will have to legislate to do that.