Large rise in fines for unauthorised absences at Peterborough schools

The number of fines handed out for unauthorised absences at schools in Peterborough has risen by more than a quarter.

Thursday, 6th February 2020, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 6th February 2020, 9:08 am

Parents were slapped with 3,174 fixed penalty notices (FPNs) in 2018/19, up from 2,493 the year before - a rise of 27.3 per cent.

The amount of money collected by Peterborough City Council also rose from £114,900 to £168,426 over the same period - a rise of 46.6 per cent.

The figures mean Peterborough handed out the fifth most fines and received the fifth highest revenue last year for unauthorised school absences out of all unitary authorities (excluding county councils).

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The data was collected from The Knowledge Academy which submitted Freedom of Information requests to all unitary authorities, counties and London boroughs.

For unitary authorities alone, 82,178 FPNs were handed out to parents in 2018/2019, 19 per cent more than the previous year (68,807), with 82 per cent of the authorities increasing their total.

The most fines were handed out by Leicester City Council (5,784).

In total, the number of fines not paid within 21 days increased in Peterborough from 225 to 362, while the number not paid within 28 days which led to court action was 274 in both years.

FPNs cost parents £60 per child if paid within 21 days and £120 per child if paid within 28 days.

If they are not paid then local authorities can take legal action, with possible punishments of a fine up to £2,500, a community order or a prison sentence of up to three months.

The data does not reveal how many parents were successful in court.

A city council spokesperson said: “We take cases of unauthorised absences extremely seriously and are committed to working with all schools to promote and sustain good attendance. Any absence from school has a negative effect upon a child’s education and, if for prolonged or frequent periods, can negatively impact upon their final outcomes.”

Cambridgeshire County Council handed out 6,424 FPNs last year, a rise of 56.6 per cent from the year before when it handed out 4,101.

This brought in revenue of £336,540, up 55.1 per cent from 12 months earlier (£217,020).

Moreover, the number of fines not paid within 21 days increased from 73 to 90, while the number not paid within 28 days which led to court action rose from 292 to 540.

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to high attendance from all pupils and take our statuary responsibility in this area very seriously. In 2017 we amended our Penalty Notice code of conduct to state a parent can be issued a penalty notice for their child’s first unauthorised absence at school.

“This update brings us more in line with other local authorities to ensure consistency and ease of issuing penalty notice fines.”