49,000 per cent increase in two years in fines collected by Cambs County Council from parents taking children out of school in term time

PUBLISHED: 14:35 15 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:35 15 March 2016

Shire Hall, Chambridge. home of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Shire Hall, Chambridge. home of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Archant

There has been a 49,000 per cent increase in fines collected by Cambridgeshire County Council in just two years from parents who failed to send their children to primary schools.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request show that in 2012/13 the council collected just £60 in fines – in 2013/14 this rose to £10,920 and by 2014/15 this had exploded to £28,806.

The council also saw an 850 per cent increase in fines paid by parents of children attending secondary schools.

In 2012/13 the council collected £840, rising to £5,280 the following year and by 2014/15 this had increased to £7,860.

A council spokesman said: “The money is used for the administration of issuing the fines; the legal officer time spent on the court process for unpaid fines and restorative approaches training.”

On the council website there is a large section devoted to explaining to parents the need for their children to attend school regularly. The website says: “If your child is registered at a school he/she must by law attend that school regularly and punctually. Your child should only miss school if he/she is ill or unable to attend for some other unavoidable reason.

“If your child is absent and school either does not receive an explanation from you, or considers the explanation unsatisfactory, it will record your child’s absence as ‘unauthorised’, that is, as truancy.”

Officials are now looking at a ruling by magistrates on the Isle of Wight from last week when a father successfully challenged a prosecution after taking his child out of school in term time.

His defence had centred on whether the law which says children must attend ‘regularly’ allowed for exemptions.

Parliament is to debate a petition signed by more than 100,000 people arguing for an allowance of up to two weeks’ term-time leave from school for holidays.

Three years ago the then education minister Michael Gove refused to allow pupils an extra 10 days a year holiday to cover such events. Instead he reaffirmed guidelines which state children can only be removed during term time in exceptional circumstances.

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