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Shropshire parents hit with £50,000 fines for term time holidays

Telford | News | Published:

Nearly 900 fines were dished out to parents in Shropshire for taking their children on holiday in the last school year, new figures have revealed.

The 599 notices issued by Telford & Wrekin Council and 275 fines by Shropshire Council from September 2013 to July this year brought in nearly £50,000 for the two authorities.

It is a massive increase on the year before as more stringent rules were introduced by Government.

In the school year just gone, a fixed penalty of £60 per parent per child was imposed if there was an absence of five consecutive days or more for a holiday.

In September last year that fine was increased to £120 per parent, per child if it was not paid within 21 days.

Failure to pay the fine within 28 days can lead to court proceedings.

In the school year from September 2012 to July 2013, where action was only taken with absences of 10 consecutive days or more, just 139 notices were issued by Telford & Wrekin Council and 125 by Shropshire Council.

Those fines brought in nearly £15,000 jointly.

Breaking the figures down, in Telford from September 2013 to July this year there were 633 notices issued, of which 34 were later withdrawn.

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The combined total of the fines was £33,420, including 10 cases where the higher £120 rate was paid. There are 52 cases currently unpaid or going through the court system.

In the previous school year in Telford, from September 2012 to July 2013, there were 139 fines issues of which six were withdrawn.

The total of the fines in Telford for 2012/13 was £8,150. It included 10 cases again paid at £120, while in seven cases the cash was not paid and court action was taken.

Telford & Wrekin Council spokesman Russell Griffin said: "The figures are for notices issued, not parent numbers. Some parents may have received multiple notices for several children.

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"As well as the change to national legislation last year, we also changed our local protocol for the issue of holiday penalty notices.

"This means that in academic year 12/13 penalty notices were only issued for 10 consecutive days absence or more. In academic year 13/14 notices were issued for absences of five consecutive days or more. So for Telford & Wrekin Council, this is not a like-for-like comparison.

"Any fines paid in the magistrates court do not get paid to our budget.

"We may receive a contribution towards the costs of bringing the prosecution, but this is at the magistrates' discretion and no separate record is kept of costs received for penalty notice cases.

"The money we receive from fixed penalty notices is ringfenced for use in legal aspects of promoting good school attendance locally.

"Should we not spend the money for this purpose it reverts to the Secretary of State, and is not used for other council purposes."

At Shropshire Council, there were 275 fines issued between September 2013 and July this year, compared to 125 from September 2012 to July 2013.

Total payments received for 2013 to 2014 in Shropshire were £13,440, compared to £6,720 the year before that.

Councillor Ann Hartley, Shropshire Council cabinet member for children's services, said: "When children are taken out of school during the term time, not only does the education of the individual child suffer, but it can cause disruption to the rest of the class with teachers having to repeat work and give extra help so that the pupil can catch up.

"There are 190 school days in an academic year leaving 175 days free for families to take holidays.

"Not taking into account other absences, just taking a fortnight's holiday each year means that, between the ages of 5 to 16, a child would miss around half an academic year of learning.

"Taking holidays in term time has never been an automatic right and Shropshire Council has always intervened in cases where parents choose to remove their child from school without authority.

"Where penalty fines have not been paid, parents have been taken to court in respect of the absence."

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