Data: School Fines

Help and Advice for Parents

If you have received a penalty notice for taking your child out of school in term time, and you want some help / advice, the following text answers 90% of the questions I get asked. I hope it helps:

 

If your children’s attendance is otherwise very good even a week’s holiday does not amount to an offence. 7 days is 3.64% of a school year. Attendance over 93% is better than my daughters (92.3% – she missed 12 days in the academic year 2014-15 due to two family holidays)…  and the Magistrates and High Court said I’d done nothing wrong.

 This is a link to the judgment in the IW Council v PLATT case handed down on May 13th 2016 by the HIGH COURT

 http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2016/1283.html

 …. read paragraph 16 it’s the most important ….. it says

 I do not consider that it is open to the authority to criminalise every unauthorised holiday by the simple device of alleging in the information that there has been no regular attendance in a period limited to the absence on holiday. If that were carried to its logical conclusion, it would be open to the authority to bring a prosecution under section 444(1) in respect of an unauthorised absence from school without lawful excuse of one day by limiting the period of irregular attendance alleged in the information to that one day.

Basically that means that an unauthorised absence of itself is NOT automatically an offence and therefore a TPN (penalty notice) can only be issued / pursued or court action taken, where the local authority has considered the child’s wider attendance.

90% (over a full academic year) is the DfE threshold for persistent absence but there is NO hard and fast rule that 90% is ‘regular’, and to the same extent there is no rule that a lower overall attendance would not be considered REGULAR. The Magistrates (if it got that far) are required to look at the WIDER FACT AND DEGREE. In the PLATT case they looked at the full academic year and the High Court agreed that, 90% (up until the day after the holiday in April) 92.3% by the end of the academic year, was NOT irregular attendance and the High Court agreed that the Magistrates were entitled to come to that decision.

 A much lower % might still be ‘regular attendance.’ For example if a child had an attendance of 50% but 49% was due to illness and 1% was unauthorised absence, the court would NEVER consider that to be a breach of the law BECAUSE under s444(3) ILLNESS is specifically excluded as the basis of any allegation that a child has failed to attend school regularly.

 When it comes to assessing attendance (and whether or not it is ‘regular’) the court will be required to apply the principle from the landmark case of Tuck & Sons v Priester 1881. The court in that case said that ‘if there is a reasonable interpretation of a statutory provision that avoids the penalty, the court MUST adopt that interpretation. If there are 2 interpretations, the court MUST adopt the more lenient one.

Indeed there are a number of ‘Human Rights Act’ defences to these prosecutions.. It is a fundamental principle of English law that citizens should NOT be criminalised / prosecuted under vague statute. As nobody REALLY knows what ‘regularly’ means, it is too vague to be the basis of any criminal sanction. This principle was confirmed by the House of Lords in R v Rimmington

The legislation can be found here. It makes no mention of unauthorised term time holidays http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/56/section/444

 And finally this is a link to the case I relied on in Magistrates court to win my initial prosecution. It’s from 2006 London Borough of Bromley -v- C http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2006/1110.html

See paragraph 19, it is the important one.

 good luck.

Jon Platt

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I currently have made 109 requests to local authorities all over England seeking data on how many TPNs (school fines) they have issued over the last 3 years.  I have asked them to provide MONTHLY data so I can see if they are responding to the judgment of the High Court on 13th May by issuing these fines only when a child is genuinely failing to attend school regularly, not just for ‘term time holidays’.

 

As the data comes in I will post it here: (scroll down to find your area)

 

 

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UPDATE 28.8.16 WOLVERHAMPTON

 

Credit where credit is due this was a very full and honest response from Wolverhampton.  The figures show a big fall in the number of penalty notices being issued.  Down 45% in June 2016 compared to June 2015 and down an impressive 78% in July.  The number of prosecutions is falling too (106 versus 134 last year).  As always a very low % of parents pleading not guilty at Magistrates Court, typically 2 or 3%.

The big news is their response to this question:  ‘Has this local authority changed or does it plan to change its policy in respect of issuing these fixed penalties since the decision of the High Court on 13th May in IW Council v Platt’

Their response:

Following the test case in May 2016, Wolverhampton Local Authority has adopted an interim position with regards to issuing penalty notices for unauthorised leave of absence. Each case is looked at individually and overall attendance is taken into consideration.

Shockingly it appears that they are admitting that they weren’t doing this in the past (considering the wider attendance) and they were certainly required to before issuing a Penalty Notice. I have of course asked them to clarify exactly what they were doing beforehand and what are they doing now that is different because the huge fall in the numbers of PNs issued by Wolverhampton supports my contention that they were issuing hundreds of these penalty notices unlawfully.

 

CLICK HERE FOR WOLVERHAMPTON DATA

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UPDATE 28.8.16 PORTSMOUTH CITY

 

An utterly shameless (and unlawful) attempt to hide a major policy change and a MASSIVE fall in the number of penalty notices being issued!

Initially my request for monthly data on penalty notices issued, received a response providing only out of date annual figures so I sent them this question:

‘Can you please tell me how many were issued in June and July 2015 compared to June and July 2016 and has there been any change in policy by Portsmouth Council in respect of penalty charges or s444 prosecutions’?

This is their almost UNBELIEVABLE RESPONSE (verbatim):

‘2015 June 222 July 257

2016 June 30 July 18

PCC has not changed its policy penalty notices and each application is judged on its own merits’.

So the number of penalty notices has fallen by an amazing 90% BUT apparently there has been no change in policy in Portsmouth? This is blatantly not true AND unlawful. The policy in Portsmouth has unquestionably changed and they are refusing to admit it because they want parents to remain in the dark about this change to ‘keep them in line’. This is unlawful and I have advised Portsmouth of my intention to seek judicial review if they do not publish this change in policy.

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UPDATE 27.8.16 YORK CITY

 

Credit where credit is due. This local authority issues VERY FEW penalty notices (well done York). I don’t know this area of the country well but I am guessing that York City is a relatively prosperous place because every time I get data from an affluent area, it shows very few (sometimes ZERO) penalty notices being issued.

I asked York if they planned to make any changes to the ‘fining system’ post the May 13th decision of the High Court, this was their response:

‘We issued very few penalty notices in relation to unauthorised leave of absence for family holidays in term time and therefore the court case in the High Court on 13 May has had little impact on this area of work. However we are mindful of the court decision and  ongoing appeal by the Isle of Wight Council. It would be very unlikely that we would issue a penalty notice when the  absence was entirely due to unauthorised leave of absence for a family holiday, unless the absence was extended and/or the child was a persistent absentee and/or had a history of persistent absenteeism. We will also await any future guidance issued by Department for Education’.

I have to say I like that response, basically we’ve never issued unlawful fines so we are not affected by that decision.  I agree!

 

CLICK HERE FOR YORK CITY DATA

 

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UPDATE 26.8.16 LEEDS

 

Leeds is one of those local authorities that has completely ‘lost the plot’ in my opinion (or sought legal advice from Homer Simpson).  In all seriousness they have provide the data in two separate categories, one for truancy (irregular attendance) and one for HOLIDAY PENALTY NOTICES!!  I asked them, under what specific legislation do they argue they have the power to issue a HOLIDAY PENALTY NOTICE? (I’ll give you a heads up, that power does NOT exist)  At first they tried to be evasive and told me to read their code of conduct (I already had) so I responded and said it wan’t in there, could they be specific (Act of Parliament and relevant section).

Today they cited the specific legislation and you can read it here.  The problem, as you will see is that they have cited s444A, which was incorporated into the Education Act in 2003 via an amendment courtesy of the aptly named Anti Social Behaviour Act. That amendment allows for the issuing of penalty notices ONLY when they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child has failed to attend REGULARLY .

Now, given that the High Court said these words in 2006: ‘ I would readily accept the submission that it does not automatically follow that there will not have been regular attendance merely because there has been an unauthorised holiday. The question will be very much one of fact and degree in each case….! 

And in the judgment in my case on May 13th the High Court said: ‘ I do not consider that it is open to the authority to criminalise every unauthorised holiday by the simple device of alleging in the information that there has been no regular attendance in a period limited to the absence on holiday.

Leeds has a HUGE problem.   All the HOLIDAY PENALTY NOTICES appear to have been issued ‘ultra vires’ (beyond the power granted to them by Parliament).

You can see the data at the link below but the critical thing is that they are actually issuing fewer of these HOLIDAY PENALTY NOTICES. June and July 2015 they issued 742 – June and July 2016 they have issued an appropriate 666!  August the figures are better still, a reduction of 46% but there are still a few days of August left and they may well issue more in the last few days.

So Leeds and Lancashire will be defendants number 1 and 2 when we start a group litigation to recover unlawfully issued penalty notices because they just don’t seem to understand the simple words of the High Court … they CAN’T penalise and criminalise EVERY unauthorised absence unless the child overall has failed to attend regularly.

 CLICK HERE FOR LEEDS DATA

 

 

 

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UPDATE 25.8.16 KIRKLEES

 

This local authority are a ‘top ten finer’.  They have issued over 3000 penalty notices this year compared to 2390 last year.  In response to my question ‘Has this local authority changed or does it plan to change its policy in respect of issuing these fixed penalties since the decision of the High Court on 13th May in IW Council v Platt’

They said:

‘The Council continues to consider each penalty notice request on a case by case basis and has not changed its policy.  Kirklees Council will continue to issue Penalty Notices in line with Government Legislation’.

Given that they were issuing significantly MORE fines in the months leading up to the High Court decision in May (April 2016 was 150% higher than April 2015) we’d expect, if there had been no change in policy that this would have continued AFTER the High Court decision on May 13th.  In realty the numbers are DOWN 65% in June July and August on the same 3 months last year.

UNQUESTIONABLY there has been a change in policy but this local authority seems to want to keep it a secret.  They don’t want parents to know that they will no longer be fined for a term time holiday if their child’s attendance is otherwise good. They are hoping that fear and ignorance will ‘keep parents in line’.  Bad bad decision Kirklees.   You are legally required to publish your policy on school attendance and you can’t secretly amend the policy without publishing those material changes.

 

 CLICK HERE FOR KIRKLEES RESPONSE

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UPDATE 24.8.16 NORTH YORKSHIRE

 

Another HUGE success.  In June and July 2015 they issued 258 penalty notices and the same two months this year they have issued LESS THAN 30, a fall of 88%

CLICK HERE TO READ THEIR FULL RESPONSE

 

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UPDATE 24.8.16 MIDDLESBROUGH

 

Another HUGE success.  In June and July 2015 they issued 213 penalty notices and the same two months this year they have issued just 32, a fall of 85%

 

CLICK HERE FOR MIDDLESBROUGH DATA

 

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UPDATE 24.8.16 CAMBRIDGESHIRE

 

Big fall in the numbers being issued AND a very public change in policy.   June, July August 2015 they issued a total of 251, the same 3 months this year the figure is 122 a fall of 51%.

More importantly this is what they say their new policy is:  ‘From Monday 16th May 2016 when we receive any referrals from schools for a Penalty Notice for a holiday alone to be issued, we will only issue a PN for holiday absences where there are other unauthorised absences which take the attendance percentage below 90%’.

 

CLICK HERE FOR CAMBRIDGESHIRE DATA

 

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UPDATE 20.8.16 LEICESTER CITY

 

Leicester City Council say they can’t provide a monthly breakdown but they have given annual figures that show an overall drop on last year.  There are some interesting facts in this response.  When asked:

Has this local authority changed or does it plan to change its policy in respect of issuing these fixed penalties since the decision of the High Court on 13th May in IW Council v Platt

they responded:

The Local Authority has not changed its code of conduct and there are no anticipated changes.  The operational process has been slightly changed and on receipt of a PN request a judgement, on whether a child has attended regularly is made.  Each case is decided on its individual merits. 

While that is of course good news, it actually means that they weren’t doing this in the past and they most certainly SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  This is evidence that penalty notices WERE (almost certainly) being issued unlawfully by LCC, when a child WAS attending regularly.

 

CLICK HERE FOR LEICESTER DATA

 

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UPDATE 20.8.16 LINCOLNSHIRE

 

Staggering result.  They have itemised out the penalty notices issued for ‘persistent absence’ from those issued for ‘unauthorised absence’. The first thing you will notice from the data (see link below) is that that can’t spell persistent and they have referred to it as ABUSE rather than absence.  OH the irony of a local authority that can’t spell when they have been issuing so many fines, alleging children are not attending school regularly!

 

That aside the most spectacular fact that has come out of this is that in June and July of 2015 Lincolnshire issued 299 penalty notices for ‘unauthorised holidays’ and in June and July 2016 that figure has fallen to 3.  In May 2016 they issued 48 penalty notices and withdraw 41 of them.  Lincolnshire have told me that they no longer issue penalty notices for unauthorised holidays and only issue them when they feel able to allege irregular attendance.  This is EXACTLY what the law requires of them.  I still find it remarkable that so many local authorities don’t seem to have grasped that fact!

CLICK HERE FOR LINCOLNSHIRE DATA

 

 

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UPDATE 18.8.16 DURHAM

 

This local authority is issuing more (MANY MORE) penalty notices.  They clearly don’t understand the implications of the High Court judgment. The July 2016 figure is 303, the MOST they have ever issued and up from 96 in July 2015.  1009 prosecutions over the last 6 years and ZERO acquittals, not because they are right, but because 92% of people PLEAD GUILTY or failed to show up at court.

 

CLICK HERE FOR DURHAM DATA 

 

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UPDATE 17.8.16 BLACKBURN

 

This local authority issues a lot of penalty notices, 1071 last year alone and up until the end of April 2016 they were on course to issue about 20% more this year than last.  Following the High Court decision on May 13th a dramatic reduction can be seen in the numbers being issued.  For example in May, June and July of 2015 they issued 304 and in the same 3 months this year that has fallen to 31, a drop of 90%.  The August figure is looking VERY promising too.  In 2015 they issued 226, the most they had ever issued in a single month but this August so far they have issued just 2.

CLICK HERE FOR BLACKBURN DATA 

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UPDATE 12.8.16 ISLE OF WIGHT

 

When the Isle of Wight responded to my request for data on penalty notices issued, their response of 2nd August was missing the data for July 2016.  That has now come in and the figure is REMARKABLE.  In July 2015 they issued an incredible 316 penalty notices. For a place the size of the Isle of Wight that is an incredibly high number. It was the highest number EVER issued in a single month by the Isle of Wight Council.  In July 2016 that number has fallen to 24 ….. a fall of 93%.  If ever their was evidence of an acceptance that the previous policy on penalty notices was unlawful, this is it.  In a single month 292 parent, who might otherwise have been fined, weren’t.  That is £17,520 back in the pockets of IW parents in a single month.  I can’t wait to get the August figure!

 

CLICK HERE – Isle of Wight Council FOI response

 

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UPDATE 11.8.16 BATH & NORTH EAST SOMERSET

 

Another local authority that doesn’t issue a lot of penalty notices (well compared to the likes of Lancashire and Doncaster anyway).  In May – July 2015 they issued 77 but in the same period this year that number fell to 22, a 71% drop. Great news for parents in Bath and North East Somerset.

 Click here for Bath & North East Somerset Data

 

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UPDATE 10.8.16 HOUNSLOW

 

Nothing too dramatic to report as this local authority don’t really issue a lot of penalty notices in respect of term time holidays but the number has certainly fallen in June and July 2016. Average for January to May was 26 a month, it is now 2 for June and July

 

CLICK HERE FOR HOUNSLOW DATA

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UPDATE 10.8.16 DONCASTER

These are truly shocking figures.  May to July 2015 Doncaster issued 939 penalty notices for term time holidays ALONE and they withdrew 106 leaving a NET figure of 833.  In May – July 2016 the total issued has fallen to 195 and they have withdrawn 96 of those!  The net 2016 figure is therefore 96 compared to 833 a year ago.  What is even more remarkable is that they managed to issue 885 in AUGUST 2015 ALONE!  I can’t wait to see what their figure is for August 2016!  The fall in the number of penalty notices issued in Doncaster in the last 3 months versus the same 3 months last year is an almost unbelievable 88.4%.  ALL for term time holidays and most of those will have been issued to parents whose children had otherwise excellent attendance. OUTRAGEOUS!

 

 CLICK HERE FOR THE DONCASTER DATA – IT IS SHOCKING

 

PARENTS IN DONCASTER: YOU REALLY MUST READ & SHARE THIS.

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UPDATE 10.8.16 LEICESTER

 

Over the last 3 months there has been a small drop (9%) in the number of penalty notices issued by Leicester compared to the same period last year (May, June & July).  However the July figure is much more encouraging.  July 2015 they issued 174 penalty notices and July 2016 that had fallen to 71, of which 20 have already been withdrawn. The NET result is that the fall for July 2016 is 75% compared to July 2015.

 

CLICK HERE FOR LEICESTER DATA

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UPDATE 9.8.16 MEDWAY

 

This local authority issues a LOT of penalty notices.  The figure for May June and July 2015 was a shocking 601 issued with 60 withdrawn.  In 2016 that figure has RISEN to an astonishing 706 of which 25 had been withdrawn by 4th August.

I asked this local authority if they were planning to make any changes in light of the High Court decision and they said: ‘We can confirm that Medway Council will amend its policy in line with instruction and guidance when provided by the Department for Education’.

 

In short they intend to ignore the High Court unless the DfE tells them otherwise.  Absolutely shocking!

CLICK HERE FOR THE MEDWAY DATA

 

 

 

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UPDATE 9.8.16 SOUTHAMPTON

 

Southampton were a little slower to react to the High Court decision of May 13th so actually issued more ‘fines’ in May 2016 than they did in May 2015 (28 versus 99) BUT in June and July they issued FAR fewer. June and July of 2015 this local authority issued 160 ‘school fines’. The same period this year that figure has fallen to 105 a drop of 35%.

 

CLICK HERE FOR SOUTHAMPTON DATA

 

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UPDATE 9.8.16 WORCESTERSHIRE

 

May – July of 2015 this local authority issued 251 ‘school fines’. The same period this year that figure has fallen to 125 a drop of 50%.

CLICK HERE FOR WORCESTERSHIRE DATA

 

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UPDATE 9.8.16 North Lincolnshire

 

May – July of 2015 this local authority issued 277 ‘school fines’. The same period this year that figure has fallen to 37 a drop of 86%.  One of the biggest falls of any local authority in the country.

CLICK HERE FOR NORTH LINCOLNSHIRE SCHOOL FINES DATA

 

 

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UPDATE 9.8.16 Birmingham

 

May – July of 2015 this local authority issued 275 ‘school fines’. The same period this year that figure has fallen to 159 a drop of 42%.  The statistics for prosecutions also appear to show a big drop (237 v 383 last year) but the figures for 2015/16 aren’t complete so that may change slightly.

 

click here for Birmingham SCHOOL FINES DATA

 

 

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UPDATE 28.7.16 Walsall

 

The figures for Walsall are disappointing for May and June 2016.  They actually show a RISE in the numbers issued compared to the same months in 2015 HOWEVER they appear to show a BIG fall in the numbers issued in July 2016 (albeit we still have a couple of days of July left so the number issued may rise in the last couple of days). In July 2015 333 penalty notices were issued and this July that figure has dropped to only 119.

Perhaps it just took Walsall a little longer than most local authorities to respond to the High Court decision of 13th May?

In response to the question:   ‘Has this local authority changed or does it plan to change its policy in respect of issuing these fixed penalties since the decision of the High Court on 13th May in IW Council v Platt’

They have responded with:  ‘The Local Authority is assessing all referrals for penalty notices and is making decisions to on whether to issue taking the high court ruling into consideration’.

This is VERY encouraging.  In the past they appear to have issued ALL penalties requested by schools, but now they appear to be considering whether, in each individual case, the child has ACTUALLY failed to attend ‘regularly’ rather than ‘fining’ every unauthorised absence.

 

The prosecution numbers are low but still shocking.   100% of parents summonsed to court PLEAD GUILTY and were therefore convicted!  They only did this, in my opinion, because they were bullied and threatened into doing so on pain of having huge costs awarded against them.

 

Walsall School Fines Data CLICK HERE

 

 

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UPDATE 26.7.16 SUFFOLK

 

While there has been a substantial drop in the number of fines being issued by Suffolk, down to 999 in May and June 2016 from 1231 in May and June 2016 they are still issuing far far too many.  The JULY 2016 figure looks far more encouraging.   Up until 27th July 2016 that had issued 478 but in the same moth last year they issued 1196, so it appears it is starting to feed through and the numbers are dropping.  I will file another FOI on them later in the year to see if these figures keep dropping.  If you click the link below you can see the full repsonse.  A lot of these penalty notices get withdrawn, so I think the lesson is, as always, if your children have good attendance, don’t pay these penalty notices and in many cases they will be withdrawn.

Suffolk Data click here

 

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UPDATE 26.7.16 TOWER HAMLETS

 

As the data shows (click below) Tower Hamlets is issuing MORE fines, despite the High Court making it clear that an unauthorised absence of itself does NOT automatically mean that an offence has been committed.  BUT what is REALLY interesting is the number of prosecutions that have withdrawn this year.  In total they issued 240 summonses this academic year BUT they WITHDREW 137.  That is more than they withdrew in the previous 3 years combined.  There can be little doubt that the decision of the Isle of Wight Magistrates in October 2015 and The High Court in May 2016 has caused Tower Hamlets to withdraw proceedings in scores of cases.

 

CLICK HERE FOR FOI TOWER HAMLETS DATA

 

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UPDATE 26.7.16 East Sussex

 

BIG FALLS SINCE HIGH COURT DECISION:  In April 2015, 51 fines were issued and that rose to 96 in April 2016, an 88% rise year on year. Then the High Court handed down it’s verdict on 13th May, so did those rising numbers FALL? YES –

The figures for MAY 2016 saw a huge fall in the numbers issued compared to 2015 (175 down to 91 a fall of 48%). The figure for June was even better. The number issued in 2015 was 394 falling to only 159 in June 2016 (a fall of 60%).  If you live in East Sussex you are now MUCH less likely to face a fine when you take your kids on holiday in term time.

Below is a link to their response.  One of the most shocking statistics in this response relates to prosecutions. 457 prosecutions of which 107 related to the non-payment of a penalty notice.  Conviction rate 100% over the last 6 years because 99% of parents were bullied into pleading guilty.

Click here for East Sussex data – School Fines

 

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UPDATE 25.7.16 London Borough of Bromley

 

May June and July 2015 they issued 139 fines, in the same period of 2016 that has fallen to 58, a drop of 58.2%.  You can also see that a LOT more penalty notices are being withdrawn in 2016 than were withdrawn in 2015 (43 versus 88 in 2016).

 

Click here for London Borough of Bromley data

 

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UPDATE 25.7.16 Cheshire West and Chester

 

Very interesting.   As you can see (click the link below) this local authority separately categorised the fines they have issued over the last 3 years as fines for ‘unauthorised absence’ and fines issued for ‘irregular attendance’.   I am not aware of any offence that has ever allowed any local authority to issue a fine for an ‘unauthorised absence’.  The burden imposed by section 444 on parents is to ensure their children attend school regularly.  As you can see, of the 1941 fines issued by them in the last academic year, by their own admission only 79 related to ‘irregular attendance’ with the balance (1862) being based on the allegation that a child had an ‘unauthorised absence’.  A number of local authorities continue to issue public statements to the effect that the law in some way changed on May 13th and that prior to the High Court decision in my case it was lawful to fine every unauthorised absence.  This is not the case.  For example, as far back as 2006 the High Court (in London Borough of Bromley v C) said that an unauthorised absence of itself does not automatically mean that an offence has been committed, you must look at the wider attendance.  It is very telling that this local authority issued ZERO ‘fines’ in June and July 2016 for unauthorised absences (down from 404 the previous year) but has issued 38 for ‘irregular attendance’ (up from 10 the previous year).  They clearly now understand that they can not continue with their policy of fining every unauthorised absence, indeed they almost certainly now realise that they never could and that they may well face a great deal of litigation over the fines previously issued where the ‘allegation’ was simply that there had been an unauthorised absence.

 

Click here for Cheshire West and Chester data

 

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 UPDATE 20.7.16 Central Bedfordshire

 

A 30% drop in fines issued in June 2016 compared to June 2015. Good but not great, they still issued 106. HOWEVER … in the first 20 days of July they’ve only issued 4 compared to 122 in July 2015. It looks like they might have stopped issuing fines for term time holidays but it’ll require another FOI request in August to confirm it.

 

CLICK HERE for Central Bedfordshire School Fines Data

 

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UPDATE: 19.7.16 NORFOLK

 

NORFOLK data: A MASSIVE fall in the number of penalty notices being issued. The 2014/15 year saw 5215 issued and 2015/16 (to date) that figure has fallen to 1441. Unfortunately they have been unable to provide a monthly breakdown so I can’t say that the October 2015 decision of the IW Magistrates and the May 2016 decision of the High Court has been instrumental in this change in policy. Bottom line is that over 3000 less parents have been fined this year in Norfolk alone! 1441 is still far to many, but I’m betting that next year will see an even bigger drop.

 

CLICK HERE FOR NORFOLK DATA

 

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UPDATE: 18.7.16 HAMPSHIRE

 

Data just in from Hampshire is, it has to be said, a little disappointing.  In May and June 2015 they issued only 26 fines and in May and June of 2016 that has jumped to a staggering 510 (an increase of 1861% year on year). That said, it appears that in September 2015 they had some change in policy because the numbers jumped from an average of 13 a month (May – August 2015) to an average of 410 per month (September to December 2015).  The average number issued between September 2015 and May 2016 is 455.  However in June 2016 they have only issued 184 a MASSIVE drop on their previous average, so MAYBE Hampshire has taken on-board that they can’t just issue fines for term time holidays where children’s overall attendance is otherwise good.

Hampshire fines data – click here for the full data request response.

 

UPDATE: 2.12.16 HAMPSHIRE

 

Further requests for data from Hampshire show that for the months July 2016 to October 2016 Hampshire issued just 27 penalty notices.  The comparable figure for 2015 was 777, fall of  96.5% year on year.  Penalty Notices are NOW, it appears, being issued in accordance with the law rather than being issued for EVERY unauthorised absence.  

 

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UPDATE: 18.7.16 SURREY

 

Fines and prosecutions data just in today from Surrey.

In May and June 2015 Surrey issued 486 penalty notices. In May and June 2016 that has fallen to 219 a drop of 267 or 55%.Of the 219 that were issued in May and June 2016 they WITHDREW 34 reducing the actual number even further (to only 175) the lowest May & June figure since 2012 / 13. June 2016 was the lowest number issued for over 2 years, they actually issued more in August 2015 (when kids aren’t even at school) than they did in June 2016.

Court Summons:
In June 2015 22 parents were summonsed to court for failing to ensure their child’s regular attendance at school. The figure for 2016 was 11, HALF the number issued the previous year.

It certainly appears that Surrey County Council now accepts that issuing these fines for JUST a term time holiday, when the child has otherwise good attendance was unlawful. The July 2016 figures are likely to be even more telling as more parents will be refusing to pay fines and we’d expect to see far more withdrawn.

 

Surrey Data – click here to see it in full

 

 

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Update: 13.7.16 West Sussex

 

Fines data just in from West Sussex.  As you can see they show very substantial falls in the numbers of fines being issued in May (down 37.98%) and June (down 54.81%).  Given the general upward trend in the issuing of these fines, several hundred parents in West Sussex have NOT been fined because of the decision of 13th May at the High Court.

WEST SUSSEX DATA

2013

2014

2015

2016

+ / – ON 2015

% change on 2015

Jan

101

213

272

380

108

39.71%

Feb

54

174

231

214

-17

-7.36%

Mar

70

132

221

236

15

6.79%

Apr

70

276

177

217

40

22.60%

May

72

278

366

227

-139

-37.98%

Jun

50

100

478

216

-262

-54.81%

Jul

93

573

555

Aug

0

297

183

Sep

101

90

334

Oct

25

240

285

Nov

228

194

386

Dec

178

128

193

TOTALS

1042

2695

3681

1490

Prosecutions in West Sussex

 

Last year there were 322 up from 188 the previous year a rise of 71%.  Had this trend continued we would have expected to see around 280 prosecutions so far this calendar year. The ACTUAL figure is 79.

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5.7.16 OLDHAM: YES !

As you can see the 2016 May & June figure has seen a huge drop, from 567 in 2015 (605 in 2014) the number issued has dropped to 160.  That’s a 72% drop.  Indeed the June 2016 figure is effectively NEGATIVE, that is they withdrew 58, 11 more than they issued (47).   WELL DONE OLDHAM, first to respond to our request and clearly leading the way in applying the judgment of the High Court.

 

OLDHAM ‘School Fines’ Data

MONTH Number issued WITHDRAWN NET May & June total
Sep-13 181 27 154
Oct-13 149 15 134
Nov-13 186 43 143
Dec-13 113 33 80
Jan-14 142 30 112
Feb-14 188 31 157
Mar-14 82 24 58
Apr-14 118 7 111
May-14 414 17 397

605

Jun-14 235 27 208
Jul-14 214 43 171
Aug-14 41 15 26
Sep-14 333 32 301
Oct-14 248 51 197
Nov-14 126 50 76
Dec-14 130 19 111
Annual  2271
Jan-15 345 53 292
Feb-15 90 39 51
Mar-15 225 36 189
Apr-15 166 10 156
May-15 302 39 263

567

Jun-15 358 54 304
Jul-15 197 36 161
Aug-15 46 16 30
Sep-15 351 25 326
Oct-15 368 51 317
Nov-15 199 35 164
Dec-15 114 15 99
Annual  2761
Jan-16 317 25 292
Feb-16 172 27 145
Mar-16 155 25 130
Apr-16 169 24 145
May-16 206 35 171

160 

Jun-16 47 58 -11

 

 

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6.7.16 REDBRIDGE Data received:  YES – BUT!

 

The data for REDBRIDGE shows that JUNE 2016 saw 62 ‘school fines issued.  This was a fall of 186% on June 2015. the combined May and June figure fell too from 562 issued in 2015 to 463 in 2016, a drop of 17%.  Given that these figures had been rising (May and June 2015 were up 27% on the same period the year before) it appears REDBRIDGE have responded to the High Court judgment of May 13th.  That said, I am told that so far in July (6 days in) they have issued 168 TPNs.  That put’s them well on track to issue a record number for the month of July.

 

REDBRIDGE TPN DATA

Academic Year 2013/14 Number of PNs issued

May & June TOTAL

September 170
Number of PNs withdrawn was not recorded during this Academic Year
October 479
November 195
December 114
January 596
February 392
March 242
April 66
May 441

441

June 156
July 202
August 44
3097
Academic Year 2014/15 Number of PNs issued Number of PNs withdrawn was not recorded during this Academic Year
September 429
October 292
November 26
December 184
January 395
February 433
March 266
April 151 Increase %
May 391

562

121

27.44%
June 171
July 214
August 37
2989
Academic Year 2015/16 (to date) Number of PNs issued
September 17
October 452
November 161
December 210 193 TPNs have been withdrawn during this Academic Year (up to 9/6/2016).
January 468
February 361
March 242
April 384 Decrease %
May 401

463

99

-17.62%
June 62
July (to 6.7.16) 168
2926

 

Even more interesting were their figures related to prosecutions.  Since September 2012 they have brought 553 prosecutions in Magistrates Court.  57% of those prosecuted pleaded GUILTY with ONLY 7% pleading NOT GUILTY, (the other 36% were found guilty in their absence).  Some might find it staggering that this authority has a 100% success rate but it is not even slightly surprising when you realise that NONE of these parents were entitled to Legal Aid and therefore almost all (if not all) were unrepresented in court. That is precisely why the number pleading NOT GUILTY is so low.  Remember these are almost all people who decided NOT to pay a £60 fine because they thought they were innocent but somehow only 7% actually pleaded NOT guilty. I believe this is because when the got to court, pressure applied by the Clerk to the Magistrates and the prosecution to plead guilty (to avoid substantial costs) made them actually plead guilty when they were certain that they were NOT guilty.  This raises very serious issues over access to justice in this country. In no other area of criminal law would you see a 0% acquital rate as we have here in Redbridge.

REDBRIDGE PROSECUTION STATISTICS

Academic Year No of parents prosecuted % resulted in acquital % pleaded guilty No. Pleading guilty % pleaded not guilty No. pleading NOT guilty Proved In absence No. proved in absence
2012/13 156 0 60% 94 5% 8 35% 54
2013/14 149 0 32% 48 3% 4 64% 95
2014/15 120 0 40% 48 16% 19 44% 53
2015/16 (Up to 27/5/2016) 128 0 57% 73 7% 9 36% 46
TOTALS 553 47% 262

7%

40 45% 248

 

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8.7.16 East Sussex Data received:  YES!

 

The data for East Sussex shows that in MAY & JUNE 2016 saw 217 ‘school fines issued.  This was a fall of 59% on the same period in 2015.  Given that these figures had been rising (May and June 2015 were 50% higher than in 2014).  It therefore appears that East Sussex have responded to the High Court judgment of May 13th and reassessed it’s policies on Penalty Notices and will be issuing far fewer in future.

 

East Sussex      

May & June Total

2013/14 NET
Issued Withdrawn*
September 9 18 -9
October 238 29 209
November 106 22 84
December 39 12 27
January 157 9 148
February 65 7 58
March 143 12 131
April 43 15 28
May 123 19 104

353

   
June 264 15 249
July 430 34 396
August 1 9 -8
2014/15
Issued Withdrawn*
September 164 26 138
October 157 25 132
November 208 21 187
December 54 5 49
January 128 6 122
February 135 7 128
March 210 7 203
April 51 2 49
May 175 12 163

531

   
June 394 26 368
July 394 29 365
August 578 7 571
2015/16
Issued Withdrawn*
September 152 8 144
October 219 12 207
November 142 15 127
December 144 23 121
January 142 7 135
February 114 12 102
March 177 6 171
April 96 7 89
May 91 15 76

217

Decrease

June 159 18 141

59.1%

 

 

Prosecutions in EAST SUSSEX:

I’ve just been analysing the data provided by East Sussex today in respect of PROSECUTIONS.  They are  simply unbelievable figures.

In the last 3 years 459 prosecution were brought against parents in East Sussex in relation to children’s attendance at school (107 followed refusal of parents to pay a penalty notice). Of those 459 cases brought, the conviction rate was ……. 100%. That of itself should be cause for grave concern but the most amazing figures were those in relation to the pleas entered.

Of the 459 cases brought a staggering 99% of parents plead GUILTY to the offence, 1% plead not guilty! This is REALLY concerning because it appears that when parents get to court, (almost all of whom will have been unrepresented by a lawyer because there is no Legal Aid for cases like this) that between the prosecution and in some cases the Clerk to the Magistrates, sufficient pressure has been applied (threat of costs) in order to get people who are convinced of their innocence to plead guilty to mitigate the sum they have to pay.  This should not be happening in a country that values the rule of law.

 

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9.7.16 BRADFORD – YES (sort of)

 

Freedom of Information Request June BRADFORD

 

Above is a link to the figures just in from Bradford.   Some of it is very disappointing some is very encouraging. As you will see the figure for May 2016 was a staggering 714 fines issued up from 337 in 2015.   That is an increase of 112% year on year.   It was the highest number of fines ever issued in a single month by this authority!  Clearly Bradford was slow to respond to the High Court judgment.  But by June it appears they started to take note of the High Court decision of May 13th. If June had followed the same as May (was up 112% on the year before) we would have seen 622 fines issued but instead we saw 387 (albeit that was up to 27th June).  That represents a fall of 30%.  So it appears that Bradford going forward WILL be issuing far fewer of these fines.

 

Prosecutions in Bradford

As with other local authorities they seem to have the ‘midas touch’ at pressuring parents to PLEAD GUILTY. 99% plead guilty in 2013/14, 98% plead guilty in 2014/15 and 92% in 2015/16.  They also have a close to 100% conviction rate (but not quite).

But Bradford is facing a serious problem because in answer to the question ‘What % of summonses quote a period of 3 months or more’? their answer was:

Summonses issued following the non-payment of a penalty notice quote a period of attendance/absence of 4 to 6 weeks. Summonses issued for poor and irregular school attendance (Truancy) quote a period of attendance/absence of 6 to 13 weeks.

This may explain WHY they (and I would bet other LAs) have such high conviction rates (and guilty plea rates).  They limited the dates on the summons to a very narrow period. But that was probably UNLAWFUL because at paragraph 16 of the High Court judgment of 13th May it reads:

I do not consider that it is open to the authority to criminalise every unauthorised holiday by the simple device of alleging in the information that there has been no regular attendance in a period limited to the absence on holiday. If that were carried to its logical conclusion, it would be open to the authority to bring a prosecution under section 444(1) in respect of an unauthorised absence from school without lawful excuse of one day by limiting the period of irregular attendance alleged in the information to that one day.

READ THE FULL JUDGMENT HERE in IW Council v Platt

The Magistrates in my case had considered the full academic year and the High Court, while not explicitly saying that was the ‘appropriate reference period’, said that they had NOT erred in law in so doing.  Also other parts of s 444 of the Education Act 1996 refer to reference period as ‘the 12 months prior to the instigation of proceedings’.  Alleging irregular attendance over a few weeks may well be the basis of appeal for 800 parents convicted over the last 6 years in Bradford.   If I were one of them, I’d get straight to the Crown Court and file an Appeal.

 would readily accept the submission that it does not automatically follow that there will not have been regular attendance merely because there has been an unauthorised holiday. The question will be very much one of fact and degree in each case,

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UPDATE 26.8.16 LEEDS

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UPDATE 27.8.16 YORK CITY

Hi Jon,
Here’s the feature I wrote about emetophobia a couple of years ago. So many people got in touch to say they suffered from the same thing.
Please do tell your daughter to get in touch if she wants to chat about anything and tell her that things do get a lot better.
One of the most important things I’ve learned in therapy is to “self-soothe” which is basically learning to be really kind and gentle when I’m experiencing anxiety rather than telling myself “snap out of it, stop it, you’re being stupid”.
Doing breathing exercises, meditation and things like word puzzles which distract me can really help once I’ve got into a negative spiral of “Oh my god, I feel sick, oh no, what am I going to do, I feel awful, oh shit”. Different things work for different people.
Also learning how very common the phobia is helped – I truly had no idea anyone would know what I meant or would think it was stupid.
I have gone from eating nearly nothing to being more experimental than I ever thought I would be. There is some stuff I think I might never really want to try and I definitely rely on a small series of “safe” foods I eat quite often but recently I’ve decided I like sushi and steak which would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago.
I don’t want to make your daughter feel worse though, obviously, so if you feel the feature might depress her or make her more worried please don’t pass it on to her. It’s totally up to you and your wife!
One thing that helped me when I suddenly developed my anxiety attacks and emetophobia was that even though my parents didn’t have a clue what was going on my mum especially was so accepting and calm and understanding.
She would take me food shopping and let me pick out a few things I felt ok about eating and occasionally I would help her cook whatever she was eating and I could see it was “safe”. She wouldn’t get angry about me wasting food (I’d throw a lot of things away) and without putting any pressure on me she’d ask if I’d like to try a tiny mouthful of whatever she was having for dinner – not a whole meal. That slowly opened me up to new foods but it was the fact she put no pressure on me to eat things I was afraid of.
I hope some of that makes sense. Please do tell the lady who got in touch with you to pass on my details to her friend if she thinks it might help.

Has your local authority stopped issuing ‘School Fines’ (TPNs)