Council raises £6.8K from school term-time holiday fines

News Desk (01 December, 2016) Education

114 fines were dished out across the borough in a year

4830Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Children and Schools

Southwark Council raised more than six thousand pounds from fines issued to parents for taking their children out of school without permission, figures for the financial year 2015 to 2016 show.

The figures, released through a freedom of information request, reveal that the council issued a total of 114 fines with none being withdrawn.

Solicitor Julie Robertson, from Simpson Millar specialising in helping families challenge unreasonable fines, said that any parent who feels they wrongly received a fine “should seek legal advice within 21 days”.

“In court, the burden of proof lies with the prosecution, not the parents. The prosecution has to prove that the parent did not secure regular attendance and, in my experience, they often can’t. In fact, these cases are regularly thrown out of court at half time,” she said.

“Being on holiday, especially for those children for whom it is a rare occasion, is both educational and hugely valuable on a number of levels. It seems that, in some regions, rules are all that matter.

“I can only urge head teachers to consider requests for unauthorised absence seriously, and to issue fines in the context of each child’s attendance record and circumstances.”

Schools used to be allowed to grant up to ten day’s term-time holiday in “special circumstances” but rules changed in September 2013 mean headteachers can now only give permission in “exceptional circumstances”, otherwise parents would receive the £60 fine.

Councillor Victoria Mills, Southwark Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: “Southwark follows the latest guidance laid out by the Department for Education and will consider referrals for fines if a school requests it.

“We ask that schools work with our Educational Welfare Officers and consider each case on an individual basis.”

The fines are issued after referral from headteachers to the Local Education Authority, who can possibly fine per child, per absence.

The £60 fine may jump to £120 if parent’s fail to pay within 21 days of the fine being issued. Failure to pay within 28 days may result in parents being taken to magistrate’s court under the Education Act 1996.

If found guilty the parents could end up with a criminal record and a fine of up to £2,500, court costs or a jail sentence of up to three months.

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