A record number of fines were issued to Wiltshire parents for withdrawing their children from school to go on holiday.

Wiltshire Council handed out 2,906 penalty notices to parents and guardians for their child’s persistent absence during the 2022-23 academic year, new figures released by the Department for Education figures show.

2,403 of these fines, or 83 per cent, were issued due to students being taken out of school for holidays, as families look for cheaper deals outside of school holiday times.

Penalty notices can be handed to a guardian if their child frequently misses school and will cost them £60 if paid within 21 days or £120 if paid after that time.

The numbers represent a significant increase in parents being punished for withdrawing their children from school for family holidays.

During the previous academic year, the number of fines issued for this reason was just over half (1,388), while the latest total is the highest on record since 2016-17.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has branded the policy of fining parents “ineffective” in solving the problem of persistent absenteeism across the country.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "Fines have always been too blunt an instrument when it comes to tackling persistent absenteeism.

"The use of fines is controversial, and it is becoming clear that they are ineffective in addressing overall absence."

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Plane

He added: "Unless more is done to find out the reasons behind continual periods of absence and tackle the root causes behind persistent absenteeism, including support for vulnerable families and for children and young people’s mental health, fining families is unlikely to solve the issue."

These comments come after the number of penalty notices given out rose in towns and cities across England.

In total nearly 399,000 fines were issued during 2022-23, a 20 per cent increase on pre-pandemic figures.

Around 89 per cent of these were for unauthorised holidays.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "We know that regular school attendance is vital for a child’s education, wellbeing and future life chances."

They added: "Parents have a duty to make sure their child regularly attends school, and holidays should be around school breaks to avoid taking children out of school during term time.

"Our guidance is based on a support-first ethos, however we support schools and local authorities to use punitive measures such as fines where it is deemed appropriate."

Cllr Laura Mayes, Wiltshire Council's cabinet member for education and skills added: “Fixed penalty notices can be used by all schools (with the exception of independent schools) where the pupil’s absence has not been authorised by the school and the absence constitutes an offence.

"In Wiltshire, the rate of penalty notices for unauthorised absences issued per 100 enrolments in 2022-23 was below the England rate. Penalty notices for unauthorised absence are issued in accordance with Department for Education guidance.

"We work with our partners, schools and families to understand barriers to attendance and agree how we can work together to support improvements. Securing good attendance at school is an essential foundation for raising pupil attainment.”