Term-time holiday fines doubled last year in Brighton and Hove

Posted On 09 Nov 2015 at 2:48 am

The number of fines more than doubled for Brighton and Hove parents taking their children on holiday during term-time in the past year.

Schools referred almost a thousand cases to the Behaviour and Attendance Team at Brighton and Hove City Council.

The rise followed a clampdown – and the trend is flagged up in a report to councillors about school attendance.

The report also said that many more days were lost to illness. The 33,000 children at state schools in Brighton and Hove took 170,000 days off sick in the past school year – more than five per pupil.

School attendance manager Gill Manton prepared the report. It said: “Following this legislative change in the education regulations the local authority has had an increase in the volume of fixed penalty notice requests from across the city.

“From September 2013 to September 2014, there were 434 referrals for fixed penalty notices.

“From (September) 2014 to September 2015 there were 952 referrals for fixed penalty notices which demonstrate the impact this legislative change is having on schools and parents alike.

“This policy change has created both clarity and consistency across all schools in the city, acting as a deterrent to parents who remove their children from school for term-time holidays.”

Challenge

The report set out the background to the changes which have been the subject of a campaign by some parents and a possible legal challenge.

It said: “The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 September 2013, removed references to family holidays and extended leave as well as the notional threshold of ten school days.

“The amendments made clear that head teachers may not grant any leave of absence during term time unless ‘exceptional circumstances’ exist.

“The regulations also stated that head teachers should determine the number of school days a child can be away from school if leave is granted for ‘exceptional circumstances’.

“The council’s Behaviour and Attendance Team investigates cases of poor attendance and instigates statutory intervention where appropriate.

“The Behaviour and Attendance Team will issue penalty notices on behalf of schools and will always serve them by first class post.

“The team will also ensure that the issuing of penalty notices is closely monitored with the relevant financial penalty being imposed and collected.

“If the penalty notice has not been paid within 28 days of issue the case may be escalated and consideration given to prosecution for non-school attendance.

Unauthorised

“A parent may receive more than one separate penalty notice resulting from the unauthorised absence but not in excess of three penalty notices for an individual child in any 12-month period.

“A penalty notice will be issued to each parent of each child exhibiting the relevant patterns of unauthorised absence.

“Therefore within any 12-month period each parent can receive a separate penalty notice for each child that exhibits the relevant pattern of unauthorised absence and, where appropriate, in respect of more than one child.”

The report set circumstances when a penalty notice might be issued. They include

  • Unauthorised absence or truancy
  • Persistent late arrival at school – after the register has closed
  • Attendance not reaching a satisfactory level – 90 per cent – over a six-week period after intensive support
  • Children being found in a public place during school hours without reasonable justification when they have been excluded from school

The report added: “Penalty notices will be issued following assessment of poor attendance which the (council) considers to be four sessions or more within a term.

“This does not relate to unauthorised holidays but any other unauthorised absence.

“Penalty notices will be issued for all unauthorised holidays taken during term time.

“The fine is £60 per parent per child, if payment is made within 21 days from the date of issue, increasing to £120 if paid after 21 days but within 28 days.”

Sick

Primary and secondary school children in Brighton and Hove miss more of their schooling than the national average and they have more days off sick.

The report said: “There are approximately 33,000 pupils across primary and secondary schools in Brighton and Hove.

“The overall picture for Brighton and Hove is that, within 2014-15, a total of 170,000 schools days are lost due to illness.

“We are working with public health and GPs to ensure that all schools have the appropriate evidence to support any absence from school.

“In addition to this, we are working with schools to adopt a ‘hand washing campaign’ in the autumn term to relieve the spread of norovirus where there are higher levels of absence.”

The report is due to be presented to the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee at the Friends’ Meeting House, in Ship Street, Brighton, next Monday (16 November).

Priority

It also said: “In Brighton and Hove we aim to ensure that all pupils attend school all of the time and our commitment is to promote good school attendance.

“We know that good school attendance is a priority for all schools. Pupils who attend school are more likely to develop both academically and socially, improving their life chances.

“We also know that there is a direct link between poor attendance and poor attainment for a child and young person.

“Added to this, many issues related to non-attendance will highlight pupils with particular health, welfare or social needs.

“We also need to be mindful that school attendance is part of the school Ofsted judgment and grade descriptors make it clear that if the pupils’ actual attendance is well below national averages, or too many pupils are persistently absent, and then attendance must be graded as inadequate.”

The committee is being asked to note the report and to endorse efforts to continue the recent trend of improved attendance.

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