Number of unauthorised absences soars in Milton Keynes schools - and council pockets £75k in parents' fines

Parents in Milton Keynes have paid out a total of £75,271 in fines for taking their children out of school with permission over the past year.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 1:52 pm
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 1:52 pm

FOI figures revealed Milton Keynes council issued 1,871 penalty notices for unathorised absences during 2018/19.

This was up a massive 57 per cent on the previous year, when fines totalled £48,061.

Two parents in MK were taken to court last year and three the previous year, the FOI shows.

Unauthorised absences are not allowed in ant school

Schools are no longer allowed to authorise requests for children to be taken out of school in term time unless there are “exceptional circumstances”, say MK Council education officials.

“If you take a holiday which is not authorised by the school then they may refer the matter to the local authority who will consider the issue of a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN),” warned a spokesman.

A FPN is £60 if paid within 21 days, and £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.

If the fine is not paid, parents will be prosecuted in the magistrates’ court.

The council spokesman said: “Regular attendance at school is vital to help children achieve and get the best possible start in life. Children who frequently miss school often fall behind. In fact, there is a strong link between regular school attendance and achieving good grades at GCSE - having an attendance rate of 80% is equivalent to missing a day a week.”

The unauthorised absence FOI was submitted by global training company The Knowledge Academy.

Their spokesman Joseph Scott said: “The data we have received reveals a continuing issue with unauthorised absences in schooltime. And when it comes to the ‘why’ of such an issue, we believe there a few reasons.

“Firstly, going away in the holidays vs term-time can mean a hefty increase in price for families. This is often a persuading factor for parents to remove their child prematurely, a compromise which is worth the child missing a couple of potentially unimportant days of school.”

Mr Scott added: “Differing rules and considerations per school can also be an issue. With a one rule for one and one for another, what is deemed as ‘unauthorised’ or ‘unacceptable’ can vary wildly between parents and schools, meaning the risk is easier to take and can be queried.

“Finally, parents believe they shouldn’t be criminalised for such an action. On the basis of principle, especially for otherwise well-attending children, parents generally don’t agree that leaving a couple of days early/absence that genuinely can’t be avoided should not be legally penalised.”