Stricter fines for Hitchin parents taking their children out of school to go on holiday

By Deborah Price - Local Democracy Reporter

14th May 2024 | Local News

New rules will come in from August 2024 (image by pixabay)
New rules will come in from August 2024 (image by pixabay)

Parents in Hertfordshire will no longer be able to take their children out of school for a week-long holiday without risking a fine, when new national guidance comes in to force in August.

Currently parents of children in Hertfordshire can receive a fine – or fixed penalty notice – if they are absent from school for 15 half-day sessions or more in a 12-month period.

And that has meant parents could take their children on cheaper term-time holidays for a week every year – equivalent to 10 half-day sessions – without facing a penalty.

But from August schools will be required to consider a fine when a child has missed 10 or more sessions for "unauthorised reasons".

That's because from August all local authorities – who have previously been able to decide when to issue fines to parents – will have to act in line with a national framework.

For parents in Hertfordshire the new framework will mean other changes to the way fines – and other measures, that include prosecution – will be used too.

For a first offence, fines will increase to £80 per parent per child, if paid within 21 days. That's £20 higher than the current fines implemented in Hertfordshire.

And – in another change – for those found to breach the attendance rules for a second time in any three-year period that fine would increase to £160 per parent, per child.

Crucially – under the national framework – no more than two fines would be issued to the same parent for the same child in any three year period.

But if the 10-session limit was breached for a THIRD time other actions – such as parenting orders or prosecution – may then be considered.

In Hertfordshire that could include attendance interventions – such as working with the statutory attendance team – as well as prosecution.

Council officials stress that in Hertfordshire there is very much a "support first" model – and that the authority would expect schools to offer support to parents before applying for the authority to issue a fixed penalty notice.

And they say work would be undertaken to explain to parents why it may be damaging to a child to miss school for a holiday.

But they stress government guidance is very clear that parents should not take their children out of school for holidays.

And according to officials, school absence rates have increased since the covid pandemic, when the majority of children were schooled at home.

Commenting on the change in policy, a spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council has stressed the importance of full time attendance.

"Making sure all children access the full-time education to which they are entitled remains a top priority for us," said the statement from the county council.

"We are sure that the parents of Hertfordshire want the best education for their children.

"By taking family holidays during the school holiday periods, the parents of Hertfordshire will be supporting their children's full school attendance, learning and development."

Since September 1 last year (2023), the county council has issued 598 penalty notices for unauthorised family holidays.

     

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