Fines for school absences dropped significantly across England during the coronavirus pandemic – which the National Association of Headteachers described as unsurprising, as the crisis “fundamentally changed” the education landscape.
Department for Education (DfE) data shows that 394 penalty notices were issued to East Riding parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – though measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.
Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down 90% from 3,782 in 2018-19.
Of the fines last year, 352 (89%) were for unauthorised family holidays.
Penalty notices are £60 if paid within 21 days of being issued, but rise to £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.
If the penalty is still outstanding, the council must either prosecute for the original offence or withdraw the notice.
Across England, the number of notices issued fell from 333,400 to just 45,800 over this period – a fall of 86%, and the lowest number since 2011-12.
James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Fines have always been a blunt instrument when it comes to managing persistent absenteeism, and even more so if the reasons are related to the pandemic.
“Schools will be working closely with families where persistent absenteeism is an issue to provide the necessary support to help get pupils back into school.
“The reality is that if a parent is concerned enough about their child’s safety to keep them off school, the threat of a fine is unlikely to change their minds.”
A DfE spokeswoman said fines are available to local authorities when there is no lawful reason for a child’s absence, but other support to boost attendance can also be offered where appropriate.