PARENTS who face tougher fines for taking their children out of school during term time have been told they will only be punished financially as a last resort - but have been warned that a failure to act will result in court action being pursued.

New legislation - which will be discussed by ruling cabinet members next week - will come into force in September across the UK and see fines rise from £60 to £80 if paid within 21 days or £160 if not paid within 28 days.

Only two fines can be issued to the same parent for the same child within a three-year rolling period, while second fines that are issued will be automatically charged at the rate of £160.

If the criteria for a third penalty notice is met, evidence will be brought to a magistrates’ court.

Schools must consider a fine if a pupil misses ten sessions (half days) of unauthorised absence in a rolling period of ten school weeks.

Department for Education (DfE) figures show Barnsley Council handed out 3,137 penalties to parents and guardians for their child’s persistent absence in the last academic year.

Of them, 2,862 - 91 per cent - were issued due to pupils being taken out of school for holidays.

The new framework - which has resulted in the town’s schools being consulted with in recent weeks - is being adopted as the ‘most appropriate tool’ to improve attendance, education bosses said.

In Text Promo Image

“The aim is to make penalty notices more effective, by making sure they are only used in cases where they are the most appropriate tool to improve attendance,” a report, co-written by head of education and partnerships Anna Turner and service manager for education welfare Jane Allen, said.

“Local schools, and police, have been consulted on the revised code of conduct for issuing penalty notices which will be followed in line with national guidance from the autumn term.

“This will make sure that penalty notices are issued consistently and fairly across Barnsley.

“In terms of the issuing of fines directly, it is at the jurisdiction of the schools to decide whether to issue the fines, but the council will administer them.

“They should not have a blanket position of issuing or not issuing penalty notices, however they must adopt a ‘support first’ approach where appropriate and this support must be evidenced.

“We’re committed to making sure all children in our borough receive high-quality education to support them to grow and thrive.”

The new guidance acknowledges the need for additional support for pupils absent from school due to mental or physical illness or their special educational needs or disabilities.

A new policy will be created on how to respond to pupils with health needs that prevent them from regularly attending school and outline how our services can help.

Carly Speechley, executive director for children’s services, added: “We are committed to making sure that all children and young people in the borough have access to high-quality education and achieve their full potential.

“Poor school attendance can have a negative impact on academic achievement, social development and future prospects for young people.

“We welcome the supportive changes outlined in the guidance, where we can take a united approach with families to maintain good education for children in our borough.

“By working together we can make sure that our children receive the best possible education.”