Fall in number of school absence fines in Derbyshire

Significantly fewer fines were issued to Derbyshire parents after their children missed school last year, figures reveal.

By Patrick Jack, Data Reporter
Wednesday, 29th December 2021, 8:35 am

Fines for school absences dropped significantly across England during the coronavirus pandemic – which the National Association of Headteachers described as unsurprising, as the crisis "fundamentally changed" the education landscape.

Department for Education data shows that 751 penalty notices were issued to Derbyshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – though measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.

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751 penalty notices were issued to Derbyshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21

Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down 88% from 6,342 in 2018-19.

Of the fines last year, 708 (94%) were for unauthorised family holidays.

Across England, the number of notices issued fell from 333,400 to just 45,800 over this period – a fall of 86%, and the lowest number since 2011-12.

Their use varied greatly in different parts of the country, with 15 local authorities issuing 10 or fewer.

Meanwhile, just a dozen areas were responsible for over a third of all fines nationally last year.

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Fines have always been a blunt instrument when it comes to managing persistent absenteeism, and even more so if the reasons are related to the pandemic.

"Schools will be working closely with families where persistent absenteeism is an issue to provide the necessary support to help get pupils back into school.

"The reality is that if a parent is concerned enough about their child’s safety to keep them off school, the threat of a fine is unlikely to change their minds.”

Penalty notices are £60 if paid within 21 days of being issued, but rise to £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.

If the penalty is still outstanding, the council must either prosecute for the original offence or withdraw the notice.

There were almost 5,000 prosecutions for non-payment nationally last year – 21 in Derbyshire.

A DfE spokeswoman said fines are available to local authorities when there is no lawful reason for a child's absence, but other support to boost attendance can also be offered where appropriate.