A record number of penalty notices were issued to parents for withdrawing their children from school in Oxfordshire to go on holiday last year, new figures show.

Penalty notices are handed to a parent or guardian if a child frequently misses school and costs either £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt or £120 thereafter. If it is not paid within four weeks, the local authority either prosecutes or withdraws the notice.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has argued that these fines are "too blunt" and are becoming ineffective.

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Department for Education figures show Oxfordshire County Council handed out 1,327 penalties to parents and guardians for their child's persistent absence in the 2022-23 academic year.

Of them, 1,301 (98 per cent) were issued due to students being taken out of school for holidays – up from 837 the year before and the highest on record since the 2016-17 academic year.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of 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."

"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."

Across England, nearly 399,000 fines were issued in 2022-23 – with approximately 356,000 (89 per cent) for unauthorised holidays. It has more than tripled since 2016-17, when 116,000 such fines were imposed.

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Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “It is difficult to say exactly why there has been an increase in the number unauthorised term-time holidays being taken across England.

“It could reflect a shift in attitudes to schooling among some parents who see attendance as flexible when of course this is not the case at all. Or it could reflect parents wanting to take advantage of off-peak holiday prices because of the rising cost of living. Or perhaps it is a mixture of these factors.

“Whatever the case, nobody in education wants to be in a position of fining parents. However, it is just not manageable to have families taking holidays in term time. It is not only the impact on the education of the young people concerned but the workload on teachers who then have to help them catch-up. Pupils need to be in school in term time.”