THE number of parents being fined for their children missing school has nearly doubled since a term-time holiday ban was introduced.
A total of 4,388 fines were dished out by local authorities in Sussex in the last academic year – a rise of about 90 per cent.
This amounted to more than £500,000 and Sussex’s figures are about 20% above the national average.
From last September children can only be taken out of school in “exceptional” circumstances, rather than heads being allowed to grant up to 10 days’ leave a year for “special” circumstances.
Campaigners say the term-time ban is unfair because the cost of going away during the holiday season is often higher.
One Brighton family who spoke to The Argus is now facing fines and court costs of nearly £800 after taking their daughter to see grandparents in Spain at the start of the last autumn term, after a family bereavement. The seven-year-old had spent all summer in a cast after breaking her leg.
The mother, 23, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “I could not believe it.
“I did write to the school explaining things in advance but they wrote back to me after we had gone.
“We each got fined £60 then we did not pay it so they doubled it to £120 and now we have got to pay £365 each.
“I am not going to be able to pay it so it is just going to go up and I will get into more debt. “Until what – one of us goes to prison?
“Obviously it is important that children do not miss out but I don’t know if this is the best way.”
Schools in West Sussex saw the biggest leap as fines rocketed 146% from 973 in 2012-13 to 2,404 last year.
East Sussex schools saw a 41% increase with fines issued going from 1,273 to 1,756 in a year.
Brighton and Hove City Council recorded a 116% increase as the figures swelled from 106 to 229.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said “any absence from school disrupts a child’s learning and every day matters”.
A West Sussex County Council spokesman put the increase down to the change in Government policy.
But not all the absences and fines are due to family trips. One mother recently taken to court over her 13-year-old son’s 76 per cent attendance record at a Brighton secondary school said bullying and learning difficulties were to blame and were difficult to resolve.