1700 school fines have improved pupils’ attendance, says Redbridge Council

Children can often get into trouble at school, but parents in Redbridge have also been put on the naughty step in the last academic year - having to pay out more than 1,700 fines for taking term-time holidays and other misdemeanours.

Redbridge Council issued 1,522 penalty notices between September 2012 and July 2013 for families taking holidays which led to children being absent from school, a spokesman confirmed to the Recorder.

Persistent lateness by pupils resulted in 151 penalty notices being handed to parents, along with 64 for unauthorised absences.

A mother from Clayhall, who asked not to be named, said she and her husband were fined separately after she took her teenage son out of King Solomon School, in Barkingside, last October.

She said: “I was a naughty girl and I took my son out of school for three days.

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“We had a family wedding to go to in America – my husband is scared of flying, and my mum was sick.

“I do not condemn the fines system because people do take liberties but my reason was a genuine one.”

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The policy, introduced during the 2006-7 academic year, has boosted overall attendance, particularly at primaries, the spokesman said.

The fine is £60 per child, if it is paid within 21 days – after which it is doubled.

Cllr Alan Weinberg, cabinet member for children’s services, defended the policy, saying it was a success.

He insisted schools work with the parents concerned to avoid issuing a fine.

He said: “Headteachers believe [the fines system] is a useful tool and I believe the number of unauthorised absences has gone down, but that is not through the threat of a fine but through education, saying: ‘Hey, let’s have a bit of common sense here’.

“It is down to the headteacher whether the fine takes place.

“I believe the summer holidays are quite long enough for parents to have a holiday,” added Cllr Weinberg.

“With a serious case of truancy, headteachers will work with a parent from an early stage.”

The government has reduced the time frame for payment of fines in this academic year, having previously allowed up to 42 days.

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