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Parents face higher fines for school absences as part of attendance drive

Parents in England who take their children out of class without permission will face higher fines as part of a drive to boost school attendance following the pandemic.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said a fine must be considered if a child misses five days of school for unauthorised absence.

School absence fines currently start at £60, rising to £120 if they are not paid within 21 days. But the DfE has said fines will now start at £80, rising to £160.

It comes after nearly 400,000 penalty notices were issued to parents in England in 2022-23 for unauthorised school absences – which was much higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Nearly nine in ten (89.3%) of the fines were for unauthorised holidays as families looked to book cheaper vacations outside school term times, according to DfE figures released in December.

Government guidance is expected to clarify when financial penalties for school absences should be used to ensure councils issue fines appropriately.

The DfE has said school absence fines will be brought under a national framework to help tackle inconsistencies in their use across England.

Under the new measures – which have been announced as part of the Government’s efforts to try to cut down on the number of children who are regularly missing school – every state school in England will share their daily attendance registers with the DfE, councils and academy trusts.

It is understood the higher fines for absences will come into effect from September.

The DfE hopes the data set will help schools spot and support children at risk of persistent absence, or in danger of becoming missing from education.

Rob Tarn, chief executive of Northern Education Trust and founder of England’s first attendance hub, has also been appointed by the DfE as the new national attendance ambassador.

Guidance – setting out how schools and local authorities must take a “support-first” approach to help pupils and their families to tackle barriers to attendance – will be made statutory from August, the DfE has said.

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