Unauthorised School Absences Have INCREASED - Exclusive Data Reveals


Unauthorised School Absences Have INCREASED - Exclusive Data Reveals


The end of the school term is a special time of year for parents and children alike, signifying a well-deserved break from work and school. But, despite this, it is a known fact that some families attempt to "cheat" the system and avoid the price spike in flights and hotel costs by travelling during term-time instead.

Gov.uk figures state that authorities in England issued over 260,000 penalty notices to parents for their child skipping school in 2017/2018 - equating to around 712 a day. A shocking stat. 

As a result, The Knowledge Academy sought to find out whether the number of penalty notices for unauthorised absenses has increased or decreased during 2018/2019, and which areas of England are the worst offenders. 

The Knowledge Academy submitted several Freedom of Information requests to all county councils (26), unitary authorities (55) and London boroughs (32), asking to state the number of fixed penalty notices issued to parents in 2018/19 for unauthorised absences.


What is an unauthorised absence from school?

An unauthorised absence from school can be defined as any instance where a child is late to or does not show up in term time, without the school being previously aware/informed about it. Reasons for unauthorised absences can vary anywhere between parents taking advantage of a cheaper holiday to the child skipping school themselves.


Unauthorised school absences in county councils

Penalty notices issued:

Our exclusive FOI data can reveal that a staggering 96% of councils increased the number of penalties issued to parents, compared to the previous school year (2017/18). Not only that, 92% increased the amount of revenue collected from fines.

Of all county councils, Gloucestershire issued the sharpest increase of penalty notices to parents in 2018/19 compared to the previous school year – 1,632 versus 575 (^183.8%).

The second highest increase hails from Norfolk. The county saw an increase from 4,257 (2017/18) to 6,974 (2018/19) – up 63.8%.

Flipping the table, Oxfordshire impressively decreased the number of penalty notices issued to parents from 2017/18 – 2018/19. A decrease of 4.4% from 159 to 152 makes it the ‘best’ county, closely followed by Hertfordshire with a 0.8% increase (1,567 to 1,580).

Revenue collected:

Unsurprisingly, Gloucestershire increased the amount of revenue collected from fines, increasing from £27,420 in 2017/18 to £80,640 in 2018/19 - a staggering 194.1% increase.

At the other end of the table, Hertfordshire’s revenue dropped by 37.8%, followed by Cumbria with a 2.7% decrease, West Sussex with a 1.3% increase and North Yorkshire with a 6.2% increase.


Unauthorised school absences in unitary authorities

Penalty notices issued:

Further data from our Freedom of Information request found that unauthorised absences are rife within unitary authorities, too. Claiming the ‘top spot’ for increase of fixed penalty notices issued is Cornwall with 387 penalty notices issued in 2017/18 compared with 1,107 in 2018/19 - that's a jump of 186%.

Cornwall is followed by Stoke-on-Trent with a 142.7% increase, Nottingham City with a 79.7% increase and Northumberland with a 57.7% increase.

Taking a look at the bottom of the table, Torbay has seen a promising decrease of 27.7%, dropping from 1,079 (2017/18) to 780 (2018/19). Joining Torbay at the bottom are Wiltshire, Rutland and the Isle of Wight, with decreases of 12.7%, 12.4% and 5.4% respectively.

Revenue collected:

With a massive 220.7% increase from 2017/18 to the following year, Stoke-on-Trent is first for revenue collected from fines. In second place is Cornwall with a substantial 198.5% increase (from £20,220 to £60,360), followed by Stockton-on-Tees with an increase of 105.2% and Northumberland with a 70.7% increase in revenue collected.

As expected, Torbay’s revenue from unauthorised school absences has decreased by 23.5% from 47,460 in 2017/18 to 36,300 the following academic year. Joining the list of unitary authorities with decreased revenues are North Lincolnshire (-9.7%), Wiltshire (-9.1%), Hartlepool (-8.2%), Bristol City (-6.8%) and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Unauthorised school absences in London boroughs

Penalty notices issued:

Lastly, data from our Freedom of Information requests can reveal that the London borough with the biggest change in penalty notices issued is Hackney with a whopping 169% increase. The London borough saw 429 penalty notices in 2017/18 jump up to 1,154 in 2018/19.

Similarly, Harrow also increased the number of penalty notices issued by 101.9% and Barnet by 89.1%, making the ‘top’ three boroughs.

When it comes to possible improvements, Lambeth is leading the way. The borough has decreased the number of fixed penalty notices it issued by 68%, dropping from 640 in 2017/18 to 205 the following year (2018/2019).

Similarly Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Brent, Wandsworth and Sutton all demonstrate impressive developments by parents of school children, dropping by 44.1%, 15.8%, 12%, 7.2% and 4.1% respectively.

Revenue collected:

Interestingly, Waltham Forest generated the highest increase in revenue from fixed penalty fines – up 152.7% from £22,560 to £57,010. In second place is Hammersmith and Fulham with a 116.1% increase, followed by Harrow (^113.6%), Barnet (^57.5%) and Barking and Dagenham (^56.7%).

At the other end of the scale is the London borough of Lambeth who collected the least amount of revenue compared to the previous academic year. For unauthorised absences, the borough saw a decrease of 81.3%, down from £42,898 to £8,040.

This is followed by Brent (-19.8%), Southwark (down 19.6%), Bexley (down 13.5%) and Wandsworth (down 12.8%) to make all with a decrease in collected fines.


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