Parents face higher fines for taking children on term-time holidays

A crackdown on parents taking children out of state schools in term time to save on holiday costs is being imposed by the government.

Fines for unauthorised absences in England will be brought under a national framework to help tackle “inconsistencies” in their use, according to the Department for Education.

A fine to parents must be considered if a child misses five days of school for unauthorised absence. 

Fines will go up from £60 to £80 if paid within 21 days and from £120 to £160 if paid in 28 days “which will ensure all parents are aware of when they might face a fine to ensure all councils are issuing fines appropriately”.

Parents could face prosecution is they do not pay the fines. 

Almost 400,000 penalty notices were issued to parents in England in 2022-23 for unauthorised­ absences – a level much higher than before the pandemic. 

About nine in ten of the fines were for unauthorised holidays as families tried to book cheaper trips outside school term times, according to DfE figures released in December.

The DfE  said: “Key guidance setting out how schools and local authorities must take a ‘support-first’ approach to help pupils and their families to tackle barriers to attendance will be made statutory from August.”

Under the new regulations, every state school in England will share daily attendance registers across the education sector – including with the DfE, councils, and academy trusts in the next stage of the government’s drive to reduce pupil absence in school.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, 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.

“However, it is important to understand that these fines predominantly relate to pupils who are taken out of school for term-time holidays. 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.”

Rob Tarn, chief executive of Northern Education Trust and the founder of England’s first attendance hub, has been appointed new national attendance ambassador.

He said: “Attendance is one biggest challenges facing the school system today, so I’m pleased that the department has announced this package of important measures including making the attendance guidance statutory.”

Education secretary Gillian Keegan added: “Our fantastic schools and teachers unlock children’s imagination, potential and social skills which is why improving attendance is my number one priority.

“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.”

The changes came as research by comparison website Go.Compare suggested that holiday prices increase by 18% per person during school breaks compared to term time.

Summer holidays cost an an average extra 23% or £276 per person on compared to term time travel.

Trips to Greece see the largest increase, with prices up by 28% per person for holidays during school breaks, according to the study.


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