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More parents fined for unauthorised absences at Suffolk schools - what do you think?

PUBLISHED: 19:45 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 08:21 22 March 2019

Parents taking their children out of school in Suffolk during term time face fines of £120. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Parents taking their children out of school in Suffolk during term time face fines of £120. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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As figures reveal that Suffolk ranks among the worst areas in the country for unauthorised school absences, we ask the question - have you ever taken your child out of school during term time?

The figures, released by the Department for Education (DfE) reveal that Suffolk reported the fifth highest number of unauthorised absence notices in 2017/18, while Essex ranked as the worst in the country.

Of the more than 260,000 notices issued nationwide, 6,556 were issued in Suffolk, compared to a whopping 8,741 in Essex.

Suffolk ranked third highest for the same notices for the period 2016/17, an investigation revealed, although despite its drop in rankings, the amount of notices issued has increased by 484 from 6,072.

Data also revealed the most common reason for penalty notices being issued was for unauthorised family holiday absence, totalling 85.4% of all issued nationwide.

Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children's services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council. Picture: WARREN PAGE, PAGEPIX LTDCouncillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children's services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council. Picture: WARREN PAGE, PAGEPIX LTD

A £120 fine is issued as part of the notice, reduced to £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, responded to the figures by saying: “Regardless of the cause or type of absence, Suffolk County Council’s position on school attendance and education remains clear. We can only raise the bar if children are accessing and engaging with education.

“It is therefore important that parents and schools work in collaboration to support and enable young people to tackle underlying causes and factors that may prevent pupils from accessing and engaging with education.

“Where notified by the school that there is an issue, the council will work with the school to provide help and support to the family to get the child back into education.

“Prosecution of a parent is only ever used as a last resort and in a minority of cases, where intense support has not been taken up or failed to achieve a sustainable level of engagement from the parent and the child.”

The rise in fines in the region follows national trends, with the number of notices issued nationwide rocketing by 74.7% compared to last year.

According to the DfE, amendments to regulations and high-profile court cases may have affected national trends.

Figures also revealed that more than one in 10 – 11.2% of pupils – at state schools were classified as persistent absentees.

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