Hundreds of parents fined for keeping children off school

Parents have been fined for keeping their children off school
Parents have been fined for keeping their children off school
Julian Brown (60) with his family (l-r) son-in-law Paul Saunders (29), daughter Sara Saunders (28), wife Karen Brown (60) and daughter Kate Brown (31).

Picture: Sarah Standing (170958-5461) PPP-170721-151239001

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SCORES of families are being fined for taking their children out of school during term-time in a council crackdown.

So far this year 230 people have been fined in Portsmouth and 33 in Hampshire, which includes Fareham, Gosport and Havant (dates from January 1 until April 13) raising more than £15,000 for the government.

Due to reporting restrictions which prevent the media from publishing any details that could lead to the identification of the child, the court cases often go unreported.

One parent, who was fined £36 and had to pay a £20 victim surcharge after appearing at Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court, said the system was unfair and had placed unnecessary pressure on an already stressful situation.

The woman said she had tried everything to get her 14-year-old son, who has special needs, to attend school, including paying for taxis and physically taking him to the gates.

Speaking tearfully outside court, she said: ‘I can’t win. I send him to school and they send him home and I get into trouble, I have been very ill over the past few years and I’m really trying.’

Another parent was fined £60 by magistrates, plus a £20 victim surcharge, for taking his teenage daughter on a family holiday during term-time. He said: ‘I can’t see the justice in it.’

Di Smith, Portsmouth City Council’s interim head of children’s services, said the crackdown was part of a drive to boost children’s prospects.

She said: ‘Children who attend school regularly get better exam results and jobs and we’re committed to maximising the potential of every child in the city.

‘Parents want the very best for their children and good, consistent attendance is crucial for that.’

Councillor Peter Edgar, executive member for education at Hampshire County Council, said: ‘While it’s not possible for us to comment on individual cases, I can confirm that Hampshire schools take action when a pupil is absent persistently, without permission, for reasons other than illness.

‘In accordance with the law, parents have a duty to ensure their children attend school.

‘In cases of persistent unauthorised absence, the schools, with support from the local authority, endeavour to work with families to improve a student’s attendance but, unfortunately, in some cases families fail to comply and this can lead to prosecution.’

Last year The News revealed more than 830 parents were fined in Portsmouth and 70 parents were fined in Hampshire, although the county council promised a crackdown and changed its rules at a meeting in January.

A fine can also be issued if a student has been persistently late for 10 or more times after the close of the register or if students miss formal assessments, tests or exams where the dates have been published in advance.

If a child is taken out of school without authorisation for 10 or more sessions, parents are fined £60. If this is not paid within 28 days it increases to £120. And if this is not paid within 42 days, the authority can take the parent to court where they could face heavier punishment including a fine of up to £2,500, court costs plus a contribution to a fund for victims, or they could be sent to jail for up to three months.