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Suffolk issues third highest amount of parent fines for truancy and term-time holidays in 2016-17, investigation reveals

PUBLISHED: 15:00 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:29 16 March 2018

Council teams, supported by police, carry out a previous truancy sweep in Suffolk. Picture: SIMON PARKER

Council teams, supported by police, carry out a previous truancy sweep in Suffolk. Picture: SIMON PARKER

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Suffolk issued the third highest amount of fines to parents for truancy and term-time holidays in the country during 2016-17, it has been revealed.

Suffolk County Council's Gordon Jones said children should not be taken out of school without good reason. Picture: JAMES FLETCHERSuffolk County Council's Gordon Jones said children should not be taken out of school without good reason. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

The county issued penalty tickets at a rate of 60 per 1,000 pupils – which is five times the national average (12 per 1,000 children).

An investigation by the BBC revealed that 6,072 fines had been issued in Suffolk in 2016-17, compared with 4,742 in Essex, 1,300 in Norfolk and 768 in Cambridgeshire.

Nationally, fines for parents across England and Wales amounted to around £24m, according to the investigation.

Penalties start at £60 and rise to £120 if not paid within three weeks.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s schools, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said the number of pupils missing 10pc or more of school time has reduced in the county in the last three years.

He said: “Any decision to authorise or not authorise a child’s absence lies with the headteacher of their school.

“Fixed penalty notices are issued as a result of a referral from the school and it is Suffolk County Council’s policy to support schools.

“The number of pupils missing 10pc or more of school time has reduced in Suffolk over the last three years. We welcome this because it shows that parents are putting their children’s education first.

“Regardless of the cause, Suffolk County Council’s position on school attendance remains clear. Children should be in the classroom, learning, and not taken out of school without good reason - we can only raise the bar if the children are in the classroom.”

In Essex, parents saw the number of unauthorised term-time holiday penalties rise sharply – from 909 in 2014-15 to 3,165 in 2016-17, according to the investigation.

Ray Gooding, Essex County Council cabinet member for education, said: “There are clear links between attendance and attainment, and every lesson really does count.

“The Government has made it very clear that headteachers should not grant any leave of absence during term time unless there are exceptional circumstances.

“We will continue to take the action needed to protect the education of the county’s pupils.”

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