‘Scrap truancy fines - they’re not working’

Student supplies.

Student supplies. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

An Exmouth school governor and county councillor has branded the policy of fining parents for their child’s truancy as ‘punitive’ - hitting the poorest the hardest.

Parents are facing increasingly tough punishment for their children being out of school.

In Devon, the numbers of parents fined for unauthorised absences has rocketed.

During the first eight months of this school year, 846 penalty notices of £60 were issued in Devon.

Some 645 were issued for the whole of 2013/14 and just 228 the year before.

An increasing number of cases are also ending up in court, the figures reveal.

The clampdown comes amid concerns about high rates of truancy - and an increase in parents taking their children out of school during term-time to save money on holidays.

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But Eileen Wragg, a county councillor who sits on the education appeals commitee, said that fines were consigning some parents into a spiral of debt.

Speaking personally, she said: “I know of parents who take their children to the school gates, but the children don’t go into the school. Instead of hitting people with punitive fines, the whole system needs to be looked at.

“You need to ask why some children miss school in the first place.

“The easy option is just to hit parents in the pocket and then think it will solve the problem.

“But that can send poorer and single parents into a spiral of debt they can’t get out of.

“Look at the figures; there has been a substantial increase, so fines are clearly not solving the problem.”

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said his concern were parents who wanted to take their children out of school for term-time holidays. “The problem here is that some parents do not value the education their child is receiving, so are happy to pull them out of school,” he said.

“We hear it a lot; if the education is poor they think it doesn’t matter if they miss a week or two.”

He said the campaign group was not against fines, but headteachers should be given more flexibility to grant days off.

A spokesman for Devon County Council said: “The previous Education Secretary, Michael Gove, removed teachers’ discretion to allow parents to take children out of school during term-time. Headteachers now have to inform us and we are required to issue penalty notices.”

Should parents be fined for taking children out of school for holidays? Email exmouth.letters@archant.co.uk