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Parents face increased fines of £80 if they take their children out of school for term-time breaks


Parents are to face increased fines of £80 if they take their children out of lessons for a family break.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has launched a new war on term-time holidays by introducing a 33 per cent rise in the penalty from £60.

It comes amid a focus on improving attendance after standards slipped during the pandemic and schools got out of the habit of triggering fines.

In addition, for the first time since the Covid lockdowns, the Government has specified that a period of five days of unauthorised leave must be the trigger for considering a fine.

The announcement signals a return to the tough stance of Mrs Keegan’s predecessor, Michael Gove, who originally brought in the fines in 2013.

Mrs Keegan said: ‘Our fantastic schools and teachers unlock children’s imagination, potential and social skills which is why improving attendance is my number one priority.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (pictured) has launched a new war on term-time holidays by introducing a 33 per cent rise in the penalty from £60

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan (pictured) has launched a new war on term-time holidays by introducing a 33 per cent rise in the penalty from £60

‘Today we are taking that next step to further boost attendance and I want to thank those who are working with us including teachers and heads.

‘It has never been more valuable to be in school.’ The rise in fines is the first in nine years, following a period of high inflation.

For parents who fail to pay within the first 21 days, the fine will increase to £160 – rather than the £120 previously.

Those who continue to refuse to pay can be prosecuted through the magistrates’ courts.

However, it is understood that fines will only be used where parents are deliberately flouting the rules – for example, with a term-time holiday – rather than where families are in genuine need of support.

Many families were fined following the introduction of the rules almost a decade ago, with many simply factoring it into the cost of their holiday.

Travel operators and hotels cynically increase their prices during school holidays, meaning families who take children away at other times can save hundreds of pounds.

In a test case, Jon Platt, a father who refused to pay his fine for taking his daughter to Disney World in 2015, took his case to the Supreme Court, but ultimately lost.

In 2017, Jon Platt and his wife Sally lost a landmark case arguing parents should be able to choose when to take children on holiday if they have a decent attendance record. He had taken his daughter to Disney World during term-time

In 2017, Jon Platt and his wife Sally lost a landmark case arguing parents should be able to choose when to take children on holiday if they have a decent attendance record. He had taken his daughter to Disney World during term-time

However, everything changed when families were ordered to stay at home for months during 2020 and 2021.

Since then, schools and councils have admitted they had fallen out of the habit of issuing penalties since so many people have been absent with Covid-19.

The Government’s new drive also includes plans for schools to share their daily attendance registers with the Department of Education (DfE), councils, and academy trusts.

The move aims to help schools spot and support persistently absent children and those in danger of becoming missing from education.

The DfE says it will ‘form a new world-leading attendance data set’ which can be accessed via an ‘interactive secure data dashboard’.

This will allow them spot pupils ‘in need of support’ and see how they compare with others locally and nationally.

A spokesman said the move is to address ‘broken habits of attendance’ caused by the pandemic.

In addition, Rob Tarn, chief executive of Northern Education Trust, will be a new ‘national attendance ambassador’.

Last night, the move drew support from headteachers, who are fed up with parents causing ‘chaos’ in classrooms by taking children out for cheap holidays.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the heads’ union ASCL, said: ‘It is not unreasonable to increase the level of fines for unauthorised absence given that they have been fixed at £60 for several years.

‘While nobody wants to be in a position of fining parents there simply has to be a marker that this is not acceptable.

‘Not only does it affect the child’s education but it means teachers then have to spend time helping children to catch-up with lost learning. If everybody did this it would be chaos.’

However, Daniel Kebede, General Secretary of the Left-wing teachers’ union NEU said: ‘Fining parents is not the answer and is certainly not conducive to building relations with schools.

‘Especially in a cost-of-living crisis where some of those families may well be struggling to make ends meet, and this would simply plunge them into debt.’



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