Newly released national figures show the county heads the league table for the highest number of fines handed out to parents who fail to ensure good attendance by their youngsters – despite a Government driven crackdown on such absences.
Some 3,907 £60 penalty notices were issued from September 2015 to July 15, with fines rising to £120 if not paid within three weeks. The cash raised by fines is used to offset enforcement costs.
But critics say that the fine is no deterrent when families add up the hundreds of pounds they can save by booking family vacations outside of school holidays and half-terms.
Mr David Fann, County Secretary for the NAHT (National Association of Head Teachers) said schools were judged on absence rates in OFSTED inspections. He said: “A cheap holiday is not a reason to take children out of school. Everyone should be encouraging full or good attendance. If you are not attending, your life chances are harmed. I think the Government has to deal with holiday companies in terms of price structuring.”
Mr Mark Delaney, director and manager at Travel Circle on Derby Road, Longridge said: “I’ve got four children and I’ve got to take our holidays at school holidays, unfortunately. You always do see prices jump up when the children break up. It’s seasonal like any other business. Prices are dictated by tour companies.”
County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children and schools, said as one of the biggest councils with the highest number of schools it was always likely to be near the top of such tables.
He said: “In line with stricter government guidelines, headteachers are now only able to authorise absence in exceptional circumstances.”