Nine Sunderland parents prosecuted and 100 given fines for keeping children off school

Coun Robert Oliver near Sunderland Magistrates Court.

Coun Robert Oliver near Sunderland Magistrates Court.

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A total of nine Sunderland parents have been prosecuted and more than 100 issued with penalties for failing to send their children to school in the past two years.

Figures released by Sunderland’s Conservative group show that in the academic year 2014/15, 54 parents were issued with fixed penalty notices and six were prosecuted.

These figures have dropped during the current academic year with 48 people given fixed penalties and three being prosecuted.

Coun Robert Oliver, Wearside’s tory spokesman for childrens’ services, said councils needs to continue taking action because going to school must come before holidays.

Despite a high court case where a parent of a pupil on the Isle of Wight had a fine rescinded, the Government issued guidance this month urging local authorities to continue to issue fines and to reject requests for refunds from parents who have been fined.

Coun Oliver, said: “Taking children out of school during term time is disruptive and damaging for both pupils and teachers especially if it happens regularly.

Pupil absence also puts pressure on teachers to help pupils catch up

Robert Oliver

“Some absences can be justified on educational grounds or are reasonable if they involve important family events, but missing school for holidays cannot.

“A child who takes a week’s extra holiday each year at school will have missed the equivalent of more than three months of teaching by the end of their time at school.

“Pupil absence also puts pressure on teachers to help pupils catch up and affects attendance figures which help shape Ofsted reports and league tables.

“Absence also affects pupil performance as in schools with high rates of unauthorised holidays just less than half of all pupils get five good GCSEs.”

The councillor added that all state schools can now set their own term dates to allow parents to avoid spikes in prices and one way of helping the problem would be allowing each region to vary holiday dates.

Since September 2013, headteachers in England no longer have the discretion to approve absences of up to ten days a year and have to implement strict criteria.

Parents who do not have the school’s permission for their child’s absence face a maximum fine of £60 per pupil, per parent rising to £120 if not paid within seven days.

Those who refuse to pay can face court action and, if prosecuted, a fine of up to £2,500 and a possible jail sentence of up to three months.