301 fined over school absences

Simon Jones, Lancashire's National executive member of the national Union of Teachers
Simon Jones, Lancashire's National executive member of the national Union of Teachers
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Hundreds of parents across Leyland and South Ribble have been fined for ignoring tough new rules on taking pupils out of school during term time.

Data for the academic year 2013/14 show that 301 fines were issued for non attendance across the borough. Rules introduced last year mean headteachers can only grant children time off in “exceptional circumstances.”

The Local Government Association has now called for a relaxation of the rules.

Simon Jones, Lancashire’s National executive member of the national Union of Teachers, said: “The problem lies with the holiday companies and airlines and if this issue is to be addressed sensibly then there should be pressure put on them, not schools.”

The National Association of Headteachers is now planning to send out new guidelines, aimed at making it easier for heads to define “exceptional”. A county spokesman said the guidance would allow for absences for funerals, weddings, religious events and for seeing parents returning from duty with the armed forces.

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, Lancashire’s cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “Headteachers have always been able to grant leave during term time in certain circumstances. However, in September 2013 the government introduced new national rules which restricted headteachers’ discretion.

“We encourage schools to work with parents to reduce unauthorised absences, and the new guidelines look as though they may alter the rules in some circumstances.”

Some schools across South Ribble have adjusted their calendars to allow a two-week break in May to allow parents to take their main holiday then.