June 30, 2022 9.17 am This story is over 24 months old

Fines ‘not enough’ to put parents off term-time holidays, 6,000 issued in Lincolnshire

Fines given for holidays taken in term-time

Parents were prepared to take a fine for unauthorised school absences more than 6,000 times over the last four years in Lincolnshire, and some local parents say they’ll happily pay them to avoid holiday price hikes.

Meanwhile, some are calling for the penalty to fall on holiday companies that hike prices during school breaks.

The Lincolnite readers previously said fines for term time holidays would be “still cheaper than going in school holidays” after the government launched its latest consultation earlier this month.

Parents whose children have five days of unauthorised absence or lateness within one term, take holidays during term-time, or are out in public during the first five days of an exclusion, will face a fixed penalty notice. Fixed penalty notices are £120, reduced to £60 if paid within 21 days.

The Lincolnite asked Lincolnshire County Council how many fines were given out between 2018 and 2022. A total of 6,383 were issued, with over 60% (4,221) paid at the reduced rate of £60. However, in each year a number of fines were also not paid.

  • 2018/19: Number of fines issued – 3,083. 2,196 paid the reduced rate and 29 the full rate
  • 2019/20: Number of fines issued – 1,600. 1,036 paid the reduced rate and 11 the full rate
  • 2020/21: Number of fines issued – 539. 284 paid the reduced rate and 31 the full rate
  • 2021/22: Number of fines issued 1,161. 705 paid the reduced rate and 31 the full rate.

So what do local parents think? Chris, 38, has two school-age children that are 9 and 10-years-old and he told The Lincolnite that if he received a fine he would pay it.

He said:

“Family holidays are worth more than the fine.

“There is no system they (the government) can put in place as parents will do what they want with their children.

“Even if they double it people will find the money to pay it as it is still cheaper than a family holiday that could cost £1,000.”

Mother-of-four, and teacher, Vera Icheke said she supports the fines. | Photo: Joseph Verney for The Lincolnite

However, mother-of-four Vera Icheke, who is also a teacher, said she supports the fines.

She said: “I am a disciplined parent. I support education in every aspect and as a teacher I think parents should be patient during school times when the kids are learning.

“It makes it difficult for us (teachers). When you find a student is away, they have missed out on lessons.

“The prices of holidays are too high and cause some of these problems.

“I think the government has to do something about it and speak to holiday providers to improve prices, and maybe give penalties if they hike them.”

John O’Connor, head of education support at Lincolnshire County Council, responded to the data about fines issued locally saying: “Being in school not only helps children learn more effectively, but it also supports their emotional wellbeing and social development.

“In tackling unauthorised absence, schools will exhaust all other options for improving attendance before asking for a fixed penalty notice to be issued. Unauthorised term-time holidays are the exception, where a notice will be immediately issued.

“The majority of notices are paid at the reduced rate. If parents refuse to pay a penalty notice, this will ordinarily lead to prosecution, if agreed by the school.

“In some cases, the child’s attendance may have improved, so there is no need to prosecute as any legal route must have the outcome of improving attendance.

“For a period of time during the pandemic, the government relaxed the rules around school attendance. During this time, attendance was not compulsory so fixed penalty notices were neither issued nor processed and prosecutions ceased.”

Lincolnshire County Council’s local code of conduct says that currently the threshold for issuing a fine is a follows:

  • Where a child is absent from school due to unauthorised absence of 15% or above over a six week period. This will include lateness after the close of registration
  • Where a child is present in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification during the first five days of any exclusion

The government launched a consultation, which will run until 11.30pm on July 29, and is inviting comments on two proposals from schools, academy trusts, and local authorities:

1. Making school admissions registers electronic so it is easier for the data to be seen

2. Changing how soon fines can be issued to parents