Any parents who take children on holiday during school hours face a £120 fine

Government wants to crack down on ‘zip code’ lottery to help parents avoid fines (Image: Getty Images)

Parents of students absent from school without a valid reason could face fines, the government has announced.

The new crackdown aims to end a “zip code lottery” over how councils deal with truancy.

In a consultation published yesterday, the government proposes keeping student registers electronically.

The education minister would have centralized access to national register data, while local governments would have access to all attendance data for schools in their area.

Parents whose children are unlawfully absent or late for five days in a semester, take a vacation during the semester, or are in public during the first five days of an expulsion face a fixed penalty, the plans suggest.

A parent would face a maximum of two fines for each child within the school year, with prosecution considered as the next step if that limit is reached.

The government said councils are now deciding on the threshold above which fines will be imposed on parents.

Boys and girls playing on the beach on summer vacation. Children in nature with beautiful sea, sand and blue sky. Happy children on vacation at sea running in water

Parents fined more than twice per child in a school year face criminal prosecution (Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It says its proposals would end a “zip code lottery” within a system where parents are fined for absenteeism in some areas and not others.

The plans would also tighten rules on absenteeism for students in the event of illness, as current regulations allow a child’s name to be removed from registers if it is unable to attend school due to health reasons.

Ministers say this is “obsolete as regulations for students with medical conditions have changed to allow many of them to continue their education at their own school”.

They also suggest that online learning could be recorded in the event of absence, since while a student’s participation in distance learning cannot currently be recorded, “we recognize that as distance learning technology develops… there is a need to record this type of distance learning.” record attendance’.

The government said students with a child protection plan, an education and health plan or a plan for children in need should not be removed from school lists without the approval of the local council.

epa10012071 Britain's Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi arrives for a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, June 14, 2022. EPA/ANDY RAIN

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi says he wants to “improve consistency across the country and help tackle persistent absenteeism” (Image: EPA)

And the proposals state that students who are under school age should continue to have their absences recorded, while the law does not currently require their attendance to be recorded.

Pupils who are absent for 15 days or more for health reasons should also be reported to the local council to ensure they and their families receive more support, the government said.

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “I know from the work of the Children’s School Attendance Officer that children themselves really appreciate being at school with their teachers and friends.

“My job is to ensure that every child can have these school experiences. The plans unveiled today to reform how absenteeism fines work, together with our Schools Act currently going through Parliament, will improve consistency across the country and help tackle persistent absenteeism.’

Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, has called for enrollment to increase to 100% by the fall semester of 2022 in September and has urged the academy foundations to do “whatever is necessary” to achieve this.

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Justin Scacco

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