Fines for school absences dropped significantly across England during the coronavirus pandemic – which the National Association of Headteachers described as unsurprising, as the crisis ‘fundamentally changed’ the education landscape.
Department for Education data shows 1,504 penalty notices were issued to Nottinghamshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – although measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.
Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down 76 per cent from 6,389 in 2018-19.
The area issued more fines than almost any other local authority in the country – accounting for 3 per cent of all penalty notices handed out across England.
Of the fines last year, 1,091, or 73 per cent, were for unauthorised family holidays.
Across England, the number of notices issued fell from 333,400 to just 45,800 over this period – a fall of 86 per cent, and the lowest number since 2011-12.
James Bowen, NAHT director of policy, said: “Fines have always been a blunt instrument when it comes to managing persistent absenteeism and even more so if the reasons are related to the pandemic.
“Schools will be working closely with families where persistent absenteeism is an issue to provide the necessary support to help pupils back into school.
“The reality is if a parent is concerned enough about their child’s safety to keep them off school, the threat of a fine is unlikely to change their minds.”
Penalty notices are £60 if paid within 21 days of being issued, but rise to £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.
If the penalty is still outstanding, the council must either prosecute for the original offence, or withdraw the notice.
There were almost 5,000 prosecutions for non-payment nationally last year – 331 in Nottinghamshire.
A DfE spokeswoman said fines are available to local authorities when there is no lawful reason for a child’s absence, but other support to boost attendance can also be offered.