THE number of parents being fined for taking their children out of school for holidays has risen sharply in parts of the North-East.

In both County Durham and Stockton, the number of fines handed out by schools rose by more than 50 per cent between 2017/18 and 2018/19, with smaller increases elsewhere in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Hartlepool.

Headteacher Andy Byers, of Framwellgate School Durham, said he did not authorise absences for holidays and said poor attendance was a concern.

He said: "We need children to be in school. One of the biggest factors in under achievement is poor attendance. All of our data shows that.

"A lot of parents think it's only important when they're taking exams but our data shows that children from year seven who get less than 96 per cent attendance do significantly worse."

He added: "I'm sympathetic and I understand why because money is tight for a lot of families and holidays are cheaper out of term time. But I think a lot of parents believe it won't have that much of a consequence.

"If you take a two week holiday and your child has the sniffles and takes another few days off then suddenly they have four weeks off and that's persistent absenteeism.

"Ninety per cent attendance is very damaging to a child's education. Our data suggests 95 per cent is damaging – that's two weeks off a year. So they will be affecting their children's education."

Schools are able to issue fines to parents if children are missing school without good reason, with money raised covering the cost of issuing them and taking non payers to court.

Last year 2,414 parents in County Durham were fined a total of £109,740, up from 1,572 the previous year.

Richard Crane, Durham County Council’s head of education and skills, said: “In keeping with a national trend, we have seen a marked increase in instances of parents taking their children out of school to go on holiday which is the reason for the overwhelming majority of the notices we issue."

In Stockton, 1,784 parents were fined £84,860 – a rise of 55 per cent from the previous year.

Stockton councillor Lisa Evans, cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “Decisions around whether to authorise term-time absences are made by head teachers, not the council, and in cases where the absence is unauthorised the head teacher refers it to the council for a Fixed Penalty Notice to be issued.As a council we want all of the borough’s children and young people to fulfil their potential and we work closely with our schools, parents and carers to encourage good attendance because there is a proven link between regular attendance at school and pupils’ achievement.”

A spokesperson for Middlebrough Borough Council, which saw the number of fines issues increase from 1,172 to 1,459, said it was because schools were taking a more robust approach to attendance.

In Darlington, 761 parents were fined last year, up from 655 the previous years and in Redcar and Cleveland, 1,350 fines were issued, up from 929.

The figures were collected through a series of Freedom of Information requests by the Knowledge Academy