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Fines for unauthorised absences reaches highest ever level

  • December 18, 2023
  • 2 min read
Fines for unauthorised absences reaches highest ever level

Fines issued to parents for unauthorized school absences has increased to its highest level on record. This maintains a trend that began before the pandemic. Data from the Department for Education shows that 398,796 penalty notices for unauthorised absences were issued in 2022-23, going up from 218,235 the previous year. The highest pre-pandemic number was 333,388 in 2018-19.

The data showed that the overwhelming majority of absence fines, 89%, were issued for unauthorised family holidays, up slightly from 86% before the pandemic. The number of fines for this reason specifically has risen from 288,239 in 2018-19 to 356,181 last year.

This comes following research from Public First which identified “radical shift in the way term time holidays are viewed, and the scale at which they are being taken.” In focus groups, parents from all social groups “talked openly about taking their children on holiday during termtime, and those that did not were very sympathetic to it.” The report concluded that there was a “seismic shift in parental attitudes to school attendance.”

All of this follows widespread concerns in the education sector over attendance more generally. This has not recovered since Covid lockdowns. In 2021-22, the overall absence rate was 7.6%, far higher than the pre-pandemic norm of 4.5%. Absences have remained high ever since, being 7.5% in 2022-23. So far this term, it sits at 6.4%.

Despite an increase in the number of fines issued, the number of parenting orders made by courts following prosecution for unauthorised absences has fallen 38 in 2021-22, to 30 in 2022-23. The orders require parents to attend counselling or guidance sessions and also comply with specific requirements. Education supervision orders in the same timeframe, which councils must consider before an application for prosecution of parents, increased from 33 to 46.

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