Revealed: Councils that issue most fines to parents for taking children out of school

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Councils across Merseyside have issued thousands of fines to parents for unauthorised pupil absences with numbers skyrocketing year on year. Prosecutions are also up by 117%.

A new study reveals which councils in Merseyside - Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, Wirral and St Helens - are doling out the most penalty notices, fines and prosecutions to parents for taking children out of school during term time. It comes as the fines for unauthorised pupil absences are set to rise this August.

The number of fines issued by local authorities in the region for flouting term-time holidays rules has risen by 67% in a 12-month period, with figures set to soar again this year. What’s more, cases put forward for prosecution following unpaid fines have skyrocketed by 117%.

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Parents who break the school regulations could be hit with hefty fines of £160 from August, 2024. As it stands, unauthorised absences can see parents slapped with a £60 fine, which increases to £120 per child if it is not paid within 21 days, with a potential for prosecution for non-payment of 28 days.

An investigation by LegalExpert has revealed that Liverpool City Council issued 1,714 penalty notices to parents between 2021/22. The figure more than doubled the following year to a whopping 4,271. The number of cases put forward for prosecution nearly quadrupled from 94 in 2021/22 to 363 between 2022/23.

Wirral Council doled out the second highest amount in the region - with a total of 4,430 across the two years. The local authority also referred a staggering 525 cases to the Education Welfare System (EWS) for prosecution for unpaid fines between 2021-2023.

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Sefton Council handed out 3,570 penalty notices during the same period, but was the only local authority in Merseyside to see fines drop year on year, from 1,878 in 2021/22 to 1,692 in 2022/23. Knowsley Council doled out 638 fines over the two year period, with St Helens Council issuing just 593, the least amount in Merseyside.

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Parents who don’t pay the fine in time, can be subjected to further action which could include an Education Supervision Order, Community Order or even a Jail Order.

Across Merseyside, there were 451 instances of cases being referred to EWS for prosecution for unpaid fines between 2021/22. This soared by 117% the following year when councils referred a combined total of 980 cases.

Parents are being warned this year as fines are set to increase from August. New guidelines will see fines of up to £160 if the child is taken out of school for a term-time holiday. The hike will come along with a new national framework which will require schools to consider fines when a child misses ten or more sessions (5 days) without permission.

According to the Department for Education, ‘fines are a last resort, and parents will be offered support to help improve their child’s attendance first’. However, it does admit that ‘the vast majority of fines for unauthorised absence (89%) are issued for term time holidays’.

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