EDUCATION chiefs in the region have warned parents they will face fines if they take their children out of school during term time.

From this term, parents have lost the right to remove their child from school for a family holiday for up to ten days a year.

Instead, headteachers will only allow pupils time off in exceptional circumstances.

Schools will be able to refer parents who ignore the law to the local authority, which could issue a £60 fixed penalty notice per child and per parent.

Parents will have 21 days to pay or the fines will be doubled. If they are still not paid, parents could be taken to court.

Last year, North Yorkshire County Council issued 35 fines to parents for taking their child out of school.

In a letter to parents ahead of the new term, the authority said exceptional circumstances included service personnel returning from active deployment and a family needing to spend time together after a crisis.

The letter added: “The ability to access a reduced cost of a holiday does not constitute an exceptional circumstance.

“Where a child is taken out of school for the purpose of leave of absence in term time without the permission of the school, the absence will be coded as unauthorised and as such may result in a penalty notice."

Durham County Council said it had sent guidance out to schools on the new regulations.

Darlington Borough Council sent out 96 penalty notices for non attendance during the last school year.

The authority said it would be working with schools and governors to make sure they were aware of the changes.

Redcar and Cleveland Council issued 169 penalties for unauthorised holidays in term time last year.

Councillor Joan Guy, cabinet member for children’s services and education, said: “Parents who fail to ensure their children’s regular attendance at school are liable for a fine.”

Rachel Brannan, National Association of Head Teacher executive member for Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesborough, Redcar & Cleveland, Stockton on Tees and Darlington, said headteachers sympathised with parents struggling to cope with the cost of holidays in peak times.

However she added: “The presumption has got to be that education comes first and no one should be in any doubt that in general, attendance at school is not optional.”