The number of fines issued to parents for taking their children out of Kent schools has reduced again this year.
From September 2016 to July 2017, 1,221 parents were fined for unauthorised absences, compared to 3,504 in 2015/16 and 4,726 in 2014/15.
The drop is as a result in a change of policy to prosecute only parents whose child’s attendance at school falls to 90% or below, following a court case in which a parent was excused a fine for taking his daughter on holiday in term time because the child’s attendance was better than 90%.
However, this judgement has been overturned by the courts and following the Supreme Court decision on 6th April 2017, the threshold of 90% attendance rate has now been removed. The spirit of the Supreme Court decision is that children should be in school for 190 days, which is every day for the whole school year. The previous threshold of 90% suggested it was acceptable for children to miss 10%, which means missing 19 school days – or one day every fortnight.
Roger Gough, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Education at Kent County Council said: “In April this year, Kent County Council‘s Code of Conduct was further revised to bring it in line with the Supreme Court decision, removing the requirement for attendance below 90% as a threshold for issuing a Penalty Notice. Although the overall number of Penalty Notices issued in 2016/17 was lower than previous years following a previous court judgement, the Supreme Court decision has resulted in a recent substantial increase in the number of Penalty Notice requests received by KCC. In June KCC received 846 requests, by comparison in May we received 402.
“Apart from issuing Penalty Notices, Kent County Council prosecutes parents whose children have unauthorised absences from school. Since May 2016, Kent County Council has successfully prosecuted 166 cases for children’s unauthorised absences. We believe pupils must attend school regularly in order to make good progress and to benefit fully from education provision. The Local Authority and the schools provide a wide range of support including the interventions of the Early Help Service for the parents who have genuine family issues that affect their children’s attendance. Kent schools’ attendance rate has improved in the past year to nearly 96%.”
If all the fines for the 1,221 Penalty Notices were paid on time, the total amount received would be around £73,260. However, in the past year, only 43% of the parents have paid the fines, resulting in actual total payments of an estimated £31,500. This covers our costs of administering Penalty Notices and contributes in a small way to funding our staff to support families that are finding it difficult to get their children into school. Furthermore, for the 57% of the parents who refused to pay, the Local Authority is taking further legal action, prosecuting the parents for their children’s unauthorised absences.