Parents in Northamptonshire who took their children out of school during term time issued with fines totalling almost £3,000

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Parents in Northamptonshire who have fallen foul of the crackdown on taking children out of school during term time have been fined a total of almost £3,000 in the past school year, latest figures have shown.

Since September 2013, when the law was changed to force local authorities to issue fixed penalty notices to families who took holiday during the school year, Northamptonshire County Council has issued 73 penalty notices.

Fines are set at £60 per parent, per child, for each period of unauthorised absence.

The figures for Northamptonshire, revealed after a Freedom of Information request, showed that in the two years before the new laws came in, there were no fixed penalty notices issued over term-time holidays.

There were, however, four fixed penalty notices issued in 2011-12 and 15 issued in 2012-13 by the council for other types of unauthorised absences.

In the first six months of the 2013-14 school year, there were 16 fixed penalty notices issued for other unauthorised absence and 73 issued for term time holiday. The total of those fines was £2,940.

The council has had payment from 49 of those families, with 40 yet to pay up.

By way of comparison, a harder line appears to be taken in Leicestershire where there were 284 fines for term-time absence during the same time period.

The Freedom of Information request also showed the number of parents prosecuted through magistrates’ courts for persistent unauthorised absence.

There were 62 prosecutions in the 2011-12 school year.

There were 23 in 2012-13 and 25 already so far in the current year.

Prosecutions through the courts are usually a last resort after measures have been taken to encourage persistent truants to return to school.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman explained the local education authority’s stance.

The spokesman said: “From September 2013 absences in term time can only be authorised in exceptional circumstances, but the government has not defined what constitutes exceptional.

“As a result, we’ve advised schools their attendance policies need to clearly set out what they consider to be exceptional circumstances for granting term time absence.

“Authorisation remains at the discretion of the headteacher and governors and the council is not part of the authorisation process.

“A decision to consider the issue of fixed penalty notices is based on information submitted by schools.

“Our policy is that the issuing of a penalty notice should be balanced proportionally against the option of a further warning notice dependant upon the circumstances.

“An unpaid fine will progress to court action.”

In numbers

Number of fines for term-time absence between September 2013 and February 2014: 73

Number of fines for term-time absence in previous two school years: 0

Total number of fines for all other types of absence from 2011 to 2014: 35

Total number of magistrates’ court prosecutions for persistent truancy from 2011 to 2014: 110

Number of fines paid so far this year: 49 out of 89

Total cash raised from term-time absence fines so far this year: £2,940