Shropshire Star

Revealed: Which part of Shropshire has the most parents fined for school absences?

More than 600 fines were issued to parents for unauthorised school absences in the Shropshire Council catchment area last year, new figures show.

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The numbers, obtained via a freedom of information request, show that seven out of the top 10 schools on the list for fines between January and December last year were in north Shropshire, with parents at one Oswestry school racking up 39 fines over the course of twelve months.

A total of 323 fines were issued in the north of the county, with 197 in southern areas and 105 in the Shrewsbury area, with the remainder issued in Shifnal.

In total, 77 schools issued fixed penalty notices to parents for unauthorised absences, with a total of 643 issued throughout the calendar year.

The figures come ahead of a planned government hike in school absence fixed penalties, which will see fines rise from £60 to £80 from August this year.

All of the top six schools for fines issued were in the north of the county, with parents of children at The Meadows Primary (Oswestry), The Marches (Oswestry), Weston Rhyn Primary, Thomas Adams (Wem), St Martins School and Gobowen Primary receiving 167 fines for unauthorised absences between them.

However, over the most recent complete academic year Shropshire schools fared better than the national average for absences, with overall rates at 7.1 per cent versus 7.4 per cent for all English state schools for 2022/23, according to government figures issued last month.

Nationally, the leading cause of absence is illness, with the illness rate dropping to around 3.7 per cent from its pandemic high of 4.4 per cent, up from around two per cent prior to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Persistent absence rates, defined in England as those children who have missed at least 10 per cent of school or about one month across a school year, were at 20.1 per cent for the county, versus a national average of 21.2 per cent.

The average percentage of persistently absent pupils in England has doubled since 2018/19.

Statistics released by the Department for Education also showed that last year holidays accounted for almost 90 per cent of penalty notices issued by local authorities for unauthorised school absences.

This year, new government rules mean fines for school absences are set to rise to £80 per incident, climbing to £160 if the fine is not paid within 21 days.

Under the new national rules, all schools will be required to consider a fine when a child has missed five days of school for unauthorised reasons.

Fines per parent are capped at two fines within any three-year period, after which parenting orders or prosecution can be considered. Prosecutions can result of fines up to £2,500.

Shropshire Council did not respond to a request for comment.