Hampshire parents fined £500,000 as unauthorised school absences rise

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Hampshire schools
Unauthorised absence penalty notices rose to 16,565 in 2018/19 from 13,508 in 2017/2018 (Photo: stock image)

HAMPSHIRE parents have been fined more than £500,000 in a year for taking their children out of school, it has been revealed.

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New data has shown that the number of fines issued for unauthorised school absences across the county has gone up since 2017, writes Maria Zaccaro of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

According to the data, Hampshire parents were handed £503,117 in fines between 2018 and 2019 as a total of 16,565 penalty notices for unauthorised school absences was issued.

This is a 22.6% increase since 2017/2018 when 13,508 fines were issued for a total of £393,922.

The data also revealed that 765 fines issued to Hampshire parents in 2018/19 were not paid within 28 days, resulting in court action – 101 more than the year before.

The figures have been released by training provider the Knowledge Academy, whose spokesperson Joseph Scott said there could be many reasons behind the findings, including the cost of holidays during half-terms.

He added: “Parents believe they shouldn’t be criminalised for such an action. On the basis of principle, especially for otherwise well-attending children, parents generally don’t agree that leaving a couple of days early/absence that genuinely can’t be avoided should be legally penalised.”

Hampshire County Council said the revenue from fines was used to cover enforcement costs.

Cllr Roz Chadd, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “We know that the reasons for poor attendance are wide ranging and complex, and we continue to work hard with schools and families to improve the situation.

“Targeted support is given to schools in managing this issue and share best practice. However, sometimes, schools find it necessary to issue a fixed penalty notice to parents of pupils who fail to attend regularly and schools’ use of this is usually only as a last resort.”

The figures have showed the sharpest increase in penalty notices was in Gloucestershire where 1,632 fines were issued in the 2018/2019 year compared with 575 the year previous – a 183.8% rise.

The second highest increase was in Norfolk (63.8%), followed by Devon (63.7%).

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