Portsmouth parents fined for taking children on term-time breaks

Families are being penalised for taking their children on holiday during term time
Families are being penalised for taking their children on holiday during term time

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HUNDREDS of fines have been handed out to parents in Portsmouth who took their children out of school for a holiday.

Figures show that 332 fines were given to parents by Portsmouth City Council in the summer term last year, with a further 193 parents being fined in the autumn term.

The council received £23,495 from the fines.

Parents are fined up to £120 for taking their children out of school for a holiday.

Many holiday firms hike up the prices for families to go away during the school holidays, and more people have found it cheaper to take holiday during term time.

But Julian Wooster, Portsmouth City Council’s director of children’s services, said: ‘Taking children out of school during term time disrupts their academic progress and can have a real impact on their achievement in school.

‘In each case of a child being taken out of school for an unauthorised absence, there can be a fine of up to £120 per parent per child.’

In September last year, the government introduced tougher regulations on term-time absence for holidays.

Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure their child attends school, unless they have opted to home-educate them. If they fail to do so, then they are committing an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

Julien Kramer is the interim head of education at the council.

He said: ‘If parents deny their children their education they are affecting their life choices.

‘It’s a safeguarding issue. If you aren’t in school learning it’s not going to help you.

‘If parents choose to send their children to school then they have a duty to ensure attendance.’

The council’s children and education cabinet member, Councillor Rob Wood, said it was not a serious problem, but a persistent one.

Cllr Wood said: ‘It’s very much a modern-day issue.

’The problem is increasing because people can afford to take more trips abroad.

‘Sometimes parents tend to think in terms of what suits them rather than what suits their children’s education.’

Parents can put in requests for term-time holidays, but these are granted or refused entirely at the headteacher’s discretion and are not a parental right.

Meanwhile, 98 fines were issued for unauthorised absences in the summer term last year, with nine issued for the autumn term.

Portsmouth City Council made £3,689 from these fines.

Number of children skipping school is falling

THE number of pupils repeatedly skipping school in Portsmouth has fallen by 645 since 2010.

In 2009/10 2,034 pupils were persistently absent from school, but this fell to 1,389 in 2012/13.

Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North, said: ‘We are now above the national average, and that has been down to the hard work of teachers, heads and parents across the city. It is a considerable achievement, but there is still more to do.’

In Hampshire, the figures have fallen by more than 25 per cent since 2010. In 2009/10 9,510 pupils were persistently absent from school, but this has fallen to 7,111 in 2012/13.

Caroline Dinenage, the MP for Gosport, said: ‘Those who skip school end up playing a constant game of catch-up – a game most of those children sadly end up losing.

‘It is therefore great news that, thanks to this government’s actions, truancy has dramatically reduced across Hampshire.

‘This government is reintroducing rigour into our schools, ensuring high standards of discipline are maintained, and our EBacc means that more young people are studying for the key academic subjects that will help them get on in life.’