THE number of fines issued to Cheshire parents who take their children out of school during term time has soared following a landmark court ruling.

Figures recently released by the Government show that in 2017-18, Cheshire West and Chester Council issued 2,747 fixed penalty notices to parents, compared to just 134 in 2016-17.

Meanwhile, Cheshire East Council issued 1,400 fixed penalty notices in 2017-18, compared to 220 in 2016-17.

A spokesman at CWAC said: “CWAC recognises that regular attendance at school is essential for pupils’ learning and attainment and creates more opportunities for their future. Parents must make sure their child gets a full-time education that meets their needs.

“The education welfare service in Cheshire West ensures the council meets its statutory duties around attendance. Fixed penalty notices are used as an early intervention to tackle low-level irregular attendance.

Winsford Guardian:

“CWAC has tight safeguards in place to ensure fixed penalty notices are issued appropriately.”

A CEC spokesman added: “It is the responsibility of parents, schools and local authorities to promote good attendance and reduce absence, including persistent absence.

“We support all our schools in maintaining high attendance levels, to promote learning, future earning, wellbeing and a sense of belonging.”

Both CEC and CWAC saw a dip in the number of fines issued in 2016-17 compared to the three years before that.

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CWAC issued 882 in 2013-14; 1,418 in 2014-15 and 809 in 2015-16, while CEC issued 754 in 2013-14; 819 in 2014-15 and 794 in 2015-16.

The figures for CEC and CWAC reflect the national picture, with a 74.7 per cent increase in the number of fines issued across England’s schools between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The Government puts that down to the high-profile court battle involving Jon Platt, who was taken to the Supreme Court by Isle of Wight Council over a £120 fine for taking his daughter to Florida during term-time in 2015.

Winsford Guardian:

Jon Platt and his wife Sally at the Supreme Court in April 2017. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Both magistrates and the High Court had ruled that Platt had no case to answer because his daughter had a good attendance record, but in April 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that no child should be taken out of school without good reason.

Platt was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £2,000 costs and a £20 surcharge.

On the Platt case, CEC said: “The council supports the view of the Department for Education that the Supreme Court judgement had an effect on the number of penalty notices issued in 2017-18.

“The council has not changed its approach to fines regarding school absence.”

Winsford Guardian:

Regulations for school absences now state that only headteachers or school governing bodies can approve periods of leave.

CWAC says it suspended issuing fines for unauthorised absences from 2016 to September 2017 while the Platt case was being considered.

It added: “The publicity of this case has raised the profile of this change in legislation for schools and the courts.

“It means a headteacher can only authorise a leave of absence if there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. A holiday in term time is not regarded as an ‘exceptional circumstance’.”

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