Fines to parents in Havering and Redbridge for school absences rakes in almost £400,000

Parents walk their children to school. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

Parents walk their children to school. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The number of fines handed out to parents taking their children out of schools in Havering and Redbridge during term-time has risen in the past five years.

The latest available data from 2017-18 shows the number of fines dished out by Redbridge Council has steadily increased year-on-year, from 2,569 in 2013-14 to 3,322 in 2017-18.

Meanwhile, in Havering, the number of fines handed to parents for unauthorised absences has increased by 57per cent, from 1,098 in 2013-14 to 2,582 in 2017-18.

The number of prosecutions for non-payment of the penalty notice in Redbridge dropped from 250 in 2013-14 to 114 in 2017-18, and there were significantly fewer prosecutions in Havering overall, ranging between 34 and 69 each year since 2013.

In Redbridge, 89.2pc of the fines were given to parents for unauthorised family holiday absences, with the rest handed out for absences due to other unauthorised circumstances.

In Havering, 93.5pc of fines were for family holidays, with the rest for unauthorised circumstances.

A Freedom of Information request to both councils also reveals the revenue generated from fines for both boroughs in the past two years, between September and July, along with the total number of fines handed out.

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In 2017-18, Havering Council made £134,640 from fines, jumping to £146,280 from 2,875 fines in 2018-19.

In Redbridge, 3,917 fines were handed out between September 2018 and July 2019, generating £235,000 in revenue, compared to £175,000 during the same period the year before.

A Havering Council spokeswoman said the income generated through fines is used to promote positive school attendance.

"We've been working closely with schools and headteachers to send a strong message to parents that being in school and on time is a priority," she said.

"Imposing a fine on parents is the last resort and is used as a deterrent.

"The levels of overall absence has reduced in the past five years, but we've seen a slight rise in the number of parents taking their children out of school during term-time for holidays, which we will continue to work towards preventing.

"The income we generated last year was used to promote positive school attendance, such as providing information and running an attendance summit."

Councillor Elaine Norman, Redbridge Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "The council works closely with schools and families to ensure that children and young people attend school regularly. Schools place great emphasis on the importance of school attendance for the benefit of the students.

"In addition, schools have faced changes to the national policy on students taking holidays during term time. As a result, more schools are requesting penalty notices to be issued for unauthorised absence.

"We have a team of welfare officers dedicated to advising and assisting schools, and helping carers, families and young people themselves, understand the vital importance of school attendance. Any revenue is used to help meet some of the costs of the support systems, as well as legal costs of any prosecutions."