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Bristol City Council Issues Thousands of School Absence Fines

Bristol families fined and prosecuted for non attendance at school last year

Over 2000 fines were issued by Bristol City Council last year for unauthorised school absence.

The council issued a total of 2,865 Penalty Notices in the academic year 2022/23 for unauthorised absence against Bristol families.

Holidays in term time resulted in the issue of 2,592 Penalty Notices. Although holidays formed the main reason for absence, it wasn’t the only reason fines were issued.

A total of 17 Penalty Notices were issued due to pupil lateness and 256 for ‘other unauthorised circumstances.’

Parents can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice for their child’s non-attendance at school. This is a cost of £60 if paid within 21 days. There were 1,989 Bristol parents who chose to take this option.

The fine rises to £120 if it’s paid after 21 days but within 28 days, which 26 parents in the city decided to do.

In 2022/23, there were 197 prosecutions for non-payment of a penalty notice.

Bristol City Council didn’t always get it right, with 311 issued notices having to be withdrawn.

Of these, 18 should not have been issued or were issued to the wrong person. A further 57 contained ‘material errors’ and 122 were ‘outside the terms of the local code of conduct’.

The council also withdrew 144 because it did not wish to bring legal proceedings under S44.

It is the decision of a school’s head if they wish to fine unauthorised school absences with a Penalty Notice. The head requests a referral to Bristol City Council which then issues a fine on its behalf.

Bristol City Council’s Local Code of Conduct says: ‘Penalty Notices should not normally be requested where poor attendance is symptomatic of complex family circumstances; in these circumstances the school should take a holistic approach to the issue, and involve other agencies as necessary. The exception to this would be where parents fail to engage with support offered by the school/other agencies. Again, the school will need to show that they have warned the parent/s that they are at risk of receiving a Penalty Notice or other legal sanction.’

Other attendance options Bristol City Council decided to take included offering parenting contracts. This is a plan drawn up between the family, school and local authority under the Anti-social Behavior Act 2003. There were 29 parenting contracts offered by Bristol, with 17 accepted by the parent.

Bristol City Council also prepared to prosecute 75 parents for not providing a suitable education for their child under Section 437(3) Education Act 1996. This action was taken against a total of 43 parents, with 19 being withdrawn.

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