Record 700 parents prosecuted or fined in Scunthorpe and district for taking kids out of school
A RECORD number of parents have been prosecuted or fined in North Lincolnshire for taking their children out of school during term time, new figures have shown.
The number of fines issued during 2011-12 soared to 704 from 590 – an increase of more than 19 per cent on the previous year.
Despite attendance figures being among the best in the country, 89 parents in North Lincolnshire were taken to court last year for flouting the rules, a rise on the previous year's figure of 86.
Fines start at £60 per parent per child for unauthorised absence, but this rises to £120 if not paid within 28 days and can lead to court action if not paid within 42.
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Absences are allowed at the individual discretion of head teachers, but many have told the Scunthorpe Telegraph that the issue needs to be tackled.
Ewart Gibbs, head teacher at Leys Farm Junior School in Bottesford, said children needed to be at school during term time.
He said: "Most, if not all schools stick to the North Lincolnshire policy, which is parents are dissuaded from taking their children out during term time.
"I would imagine the record numbers are because schools have tightened up and more are being taken to court.
"If children are not in school, they are not learning.
"We get a small number and parents are aware if they go out in term time, they are unauthorised."
Research by the Department of Education has found that missing 17 school days in a secondary school year can lead to a drop of one GCSE grade in achievement.
And with children only in school for 190 days each calendar year, teachers say it is vital that children make the most of this time.
Tracey Norriss, head teacher at Parkwood Primary School in Scunthorpe, said children who are taken out of school can often fall behind in class. "Basically, the more time a child has off school, the more their self-esteem fails," she said.
"The rate and pace of education can cause them to get left behind by their classmates. Even five days off can lead to many weeks of catching up.
"At our school, if a child's attendance is really good, there are some instances when we allow them to leave during term time. But this is at our discretion, and only if it is their only chance and attendance is good enough.
"I think if the fine is higher, parents that could afford to pay it might start to think twice.
"It's about educating the parents
so that they know about the value of education for their child."
Chris Smith, head teacher at Ulceby St Nicholas' Church of England Primary School, said he understood parents were faced with a difficult balancing act, but the only thing to stop them doing it would be a higher fine.
"We do let children out for exceptional circumstances," he said.
"These include those who have families in the Armed Forces or a bereavement in the family that might affect school attendance.
"Parents who take children out of school during term time create a significant difference in their progress compared to those who are always here.
"Ultimately, education does come first. The problem is that parents don't listen to the schools, because a £60 fine is much less than the amount they are saving on the holiday. A higher fine, I think, would stop people doing this as much."
Holidays taken during school breaks are up to 60 per cent more expensive than those taken at other times.
Faced with the prospect of paying inflated prices, many parents seem happy to take the risk.
Dawn Grice, 39, from Scunthorpe, said she had taken her children out of a school before and would continue to do it, even though she risked a fine.
"I took my kids out of school in June and my holiday was £1,000 more in August," she said. "I took the risk and will do it again because it is cheaper to do that."
PARENTS SAY THEY WILL HAPPILY RISK A FINE TO ENJOY CHEAP HOLIDAYS WITH CHILDREN - SEE RELATED ARTICLE ABOVE RIGHT