Term time holiday fines rise in Burnley

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Fines handed out to Burnley families for taking their children out of school in term time jumped significantly last year.

The Burnley Express can reveal that Lancashire County Council issued 435 fines in the last school year – up from 135 the previous year.

The figure for Pendle jumped even more dramatically, from 167 to 635 individual fines.

Fines generated in Burnley last year amounted to £18,180 and in Pendle £31,860.

The controversial system was introduced by the government in September last year which restricted headteachers’ discretion. As a result, heads could only authorise time off in exceptional circumstances.

Families had argued that they could not afford to take children on holiday during school holiday time because travel companies bumped up priced during these periods.

Parents who take children out of school without permission face a £60 fine per child, rising to £120 if it is not paid within 21 days.

Those who fail to pay can face prosecution, with a maximum fine, if convicted, of £2,500 or a jail sentence of up to three months.

But the National Association of Headteachers has this week drawn up new guidelines to make clear when families can take children away from classes, backed by the new Education Secretary Nicky Morgan.

They will allow children to attend family weddings or funerals, recover after a personal or family crisis, attend a religious event or visiting a relative who is seriously ill.

County Coun. Matthew Tomlinson, Cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “Headteachers in Lancashire and across the country have always been able to grant leave during term time in certain circumstances, including for holidays.

“However in September 2013 the government introduced new national rules which restricted headteachers’ discretion. As a result, heads can now authorise time off only in exceptional circumstances.

“We encourage schools to work closely with parents to reduce unauthorised absences, and the new guidelines published today look as though they may alter the rules in some circumstances.”

By law, all money raised from the fines is ringfenced and must go back into the school attendance service, which is what happens in Lancashire, or be passed on to the government.