Luton fifth in the country for school absence parent fines

Parental fines for school absences has spiralled by 61%
Parental fines for school absences has spiralled by 61%

The amount of fines for Luton parents whose children have had unauthorised absences from school is one of the highest in the country.

Over the last year 2,249 fines were doled out by Luton Borough Council for unauthorised absences– a 61% rise from 2012-13.

That rate is the fifth highest in 118 surveyed councils across England, putting it ahead of Manchester, East Sussex and East Riding of Yorkshire.

Lancashire attributed for the highest amount of fines at 3,106, with Kent, Leicester and West Sussex the only other local authorities ahead of Luton.

Figures show that nationally fines have spiralled since the government introduced a ban on term-time holidays.

One parent who contacted the Luton News said: “Last year when we went away for a week there was no fine as they both my children had excellent attendance records at their primary school and were doing very well in their lessons.

“Now the rules have changed and headteachers appear to have less discretion about issuing fines.

“It may be a fine of £240, but the holiday was £1,200 cheaper than going a few weeks later in August which would have avoided the penalty.

“If my kids had SATS on the horizon then it would have been different, but at their age taking them out wasn’t going to harm their education, especially as they don’t seem to do much in the final weeks before term ends.

“We shouldn’t be fined in the same way as parents whose children are persistent truants.”

A council spokesperson said the figures were high as the authority takes school attendance ‘very seriously’.

He added: “Recent changes to guidance mean that schools are advised that they should only authorise term-time in exceptional circumstances.

“Luton schools apply this guidance rigorously and consistently.

“Whilst it is at a headteacher’s discretion whether or not to grant term-time, heads in Luton take a firm line in discouraging term-time leave in order to maximise the educational benefits to their students and pupils.”

The spokesperson added that the council’s rules are reviewed regularly.

He said: “Whilst LBC advises schools to authorise leave sparingly, we, together with schools, try to recognise the effects of these decisions on families.

“This is why schools look at each case individually before making a decision.

“And we ensure that we review our policies and their effects regularly.

“This is in order to action the right balance between supporting individual families with their particular circumstances and preventing children form missing valuable school time unnecessarily.”

Latest Department for Education stats puts attendance in Luton schools at 94.9%, joint best in the eastern region.