Fines for Essex parents who take kids out of school hits record high

The number of pupils persistently absent from schools in Essex has more than doubled since the years prior to Covid - with the number of fines rising to a record high. In Essex, the number of pupils persistently absent in 2018/2019 during the Autumn and spring term– measured by missing more than 10 per cent of lessons – stood at 19,526.

That fell during the Autumn and spring term of 2020/21 to 17,510. But it has since gone up to 41,040 in 2022/2023 - slightly down from the 43,561 registered during the Autumn and spring term of 2021/22. But the number of penalty notice fines issued across Essex has seen an even bigger rise. Figures published by the Department for Education revealed that 8,741 fines were handed to parents in the county in 2017/18.

That was nearly double the 4,682 fines issued the previous year and which had been at the highest level since 2013/14, when modern records began.

However, it has continued to grow. In 2020/21 – when education was heavily impacted by Covid there were 1,788 fines. In 2021/22 there were 7,875 fines.

However, in 2022/23 – unimpacted by restrictions - there were 12,952 fines – a record high. Altogether £694,920 was levied on parents for failing to ensure their children receive a consistent education.

In that year Basildon saw the most with 2,659 fines and Uttlesford the fewest with 381.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “We take school attendance very seriously, and improving it is a key priority for all schools across Essex.

“Every lesson really does count. It is important parents send their children to school so they can access and enjoy all the educational opportunities and experiences schools offer.

“Parents must prioritise regular school attendance to ensure their children have the best journey through their academic life. Parents and carers can be fined or prosecuted if their child is regularly absent without a valid reason.

“Our Attendance Specialist Team provides advice and guidance to schools to encourage early intervention in cases where the attendance pattern of a pupil is a cause for concern. Schools can also use various strategies to support pupils to improve their attendance patterns.

“It is imperative parents remain engaged in discussions and work consistently with schools and other professionals so the necessary support is made available where barriers to regular attendance have been identified.”


  1. ^ The Essex schools with the worst levels of attendance - including one with more than 11,000 days missed (
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