THE number of parents in Oxfordshire being fined for taking their children on term-time holidays has more than doubled.

In the 2018-19 academic year, just 152 penalty notices were handed out for truancy.

But in six months since this school year started in September, Oxfordshire County Council has handed out 405 fines.

Also read: Oxfordshire parents can now expect fines for taking kids on term-time holidays

It comes after the authority sent a stern warning out to parents in the autumn which said: "Every lesson really does count. Your child is a valued member of our school community and every day missed is a day lost without them.

"Local authorities, schools and the police have the duty to issue penalty fines to parents or carers of children who are absent from school for the purpose of family holidays during term time without authorisation."

The council shared its new fines figure with the Oxford Mail after the latest Department for Education data released last week[march 26] showed the number of truancy fines it was dishing out had actually gone down from 176 in the 2017-18 academic year to 152 in the following 12 months.

That meant that for the fourth consecutive year, Oxfordshire County Council issued the fewest truancy fines of any authority in the South East.

By comparison in 2018-19, Buckinghamshire issued 1,720 and Swindon 1,882.

Also read: Term-time holidays on the rise as parents get away with it

Oxfordshire's fines represented just a fraction of the absences recorded – county pupils missed the equivalent of 54,000 school days due to unauthorised holiday in 2018-19.

Previously, instead of the £60 fines, which double to £120 after 21 days, the county council has favoured ‘parent contracts’.

These are documents in which parents voluntarily agree to improve their child’s attendance, and a council spokesperson said these had ‘proved to be effective’.

It issued 1,544 of these in 2018-19, the second-highest number in the whole country, after Durham.

For those parents who are fined, refusal to pay can result in prosecution in court, with a penalty of up to £2,500 or a three-month prison sentence.

But just four parents in Oxfordshire were prosecuted in 2018-19 due to failure to pay, down from 28 the previous year.

Also read: Oxford Mail readers say paying a fine is worth it to save money on holiday

However a spokesperson for the authority has now insisted that it ‘has not been reluctant to issue fines to parents’.

Nationally, the number of penalty fines have shot up since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2017.

It involved a dad who tried to argue against a holiday truancy fine, although ultimately his case was not upheld.

The Department for Education said that when it asked councils why they were issuing more truancy fines, many cited the Supreme Court judgement.