Blackpool parents fined £15,000 for term-time holidays

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Parents in Blackpool were hit with fines of more than £15,000 for defying headteachers and taking their children out of school during term time.

A total of 257 penalty notices were issued from September 2015 to July 15, with fines rising to £120 if not paid within three weeks.

The cash raised by fines, totalling at least £15,420, is used to offset enforcement costs.

The figure is dwarfed by that of Lancashire County Council – which covers Fylde and Wyre – which issued 3,907 notices over the same period across the county.

Coun John Jones, cabinet member for Children’s Services at Blackpool Council, said “Our position in the first instance is early intervention.

“We work to maintain good relationships with parents and guardians to look at the reasons behind pupil absence and if there is anything we can do to support families.

“With regards to penalty notices, the majority of Blackpool families who have received a fine have gone on to achieve improved attendance.

“It’s vitally important that children attend school and we’ll use every tool at our disposal to ensure that happens.”

Critics say the fine is no deterrent when families add up the hundreds of pounds they can save by booking family vacations outside of school holidays and half terms.

Mr David Fann, County Secretary for the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) said schools were judged on absence rates in OFSTED inspections: “A cheap holiday is not a reason to take children out of school. “Everyone should be encouraging full or good attendance. If you are not attending your life chances are harmed. I think the government has to deal with holiday companies in terms of price structuring.”

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson,cabinet member, said as one of the biggest councils with the highest number of schools it was always likely to be near the top of such league tables:

He said: “In line with stricter government guidelines, headteachers are now only able to authorise absence in exceptional circumstances.”

At least 50,414 penalty notices were issued due to children being taken out of lessons for trips across the UK last year.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is a myth that missing school even for a short time is harmless to a child’s education.”