Truancy fines soar after government brings in ban 
on term-time holidays


The number of parents in West Sussex fined for failing to ensure their children attend school has almost tripled in the past year.

The government changed the law in 2013, banning parents from taking their children out of school during term-time for family holidays.

Since then, thousands of parents have found themselves in court – with West Sussex showing the second highest increase in the number of fines handed out.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request showed that in 2012/13, 973 parents in West Sussex were fined due to their child’s poor attendance record.

In 2013/14, that figure jumped to 2,403, an increase of 146 per cent.

Of the authorities who responded to the FoI, only Lancashire, Kent and Leicester handed out more fines and only Lancashire showed a higher increase – 176 per cent – than West Sussex.

The ban and subsequent fines have been branded unfair by many parents, who felt the increase in prices during school breaks was making family holidays a pastime only for the wealthy.

Commenting on the Crawley Observer’s Facebook page, Sherelyn Gill said she had yet to take her son on holdiday.

She added: “I can’t justify paying that extra the holiday companies want us to pay.

“As a working parent I have to take my holidays when he is off. So I would have to pay what ever price it is.

“But when you look at holidays in school term some are almost £400 cheaper.

“It needs to change especially as some have no option.”

Julie Martin added: “I still think the holiday companies should be pressured into lowering their prices – they’re the ones to blame.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “The increase is linked to the Government directing headteachers to only authorise absence in term time if there are exceptional circumstances.

“Obviously not all absences are for holiday, they could be other reasons. If a pupil has 10 unauthorised absences in a 10-week period their parents will often be sent a warning letter. If the pupil attends full time for the following 15 school days no further action is taken. It’s important children attend school and do not miss lessons. There is a clear link between poor attendance and lower academic achievement.”