Merton parents are racking up £40,000 in potential fines every year for their kids missing school.

A Freedom of Information request by the Wimbledon Times revealed that hundreds of fines are being issued every year for kids' "unauthorised" absences from class.

The Government sets the amount of any fine at £120 per parent per child payable within 28 days and this is reduced by 50 per cent to £60 if paid in 21 days.

The penalty notice process - which is how Merton Council issues these fines - is divided into two sections:

  • Unauthorised absence (UA)– where a pupil has attendance below 85 per cent with the majority of the absences recorded as unauthorised, during a monitoring period of at least 60 x ½ day sessions and up to 120 x ½ day sessions
  • For unauthorised leave of absence (LOA) in term time – this is where a pupil has five days or more of unauthorised leave of absence in any rolling four month period

For the 2017/18 school year the council issued 211 LOA fines and 117 UA fines.

This left parents with a potential bill of £39,360 however the council said that the majority, if paid, were paid within 21 days at the lower level. Some were also withdrawn.

For 2018/19 it was a similar story with 206 LOA and 116 UA fines handed out for a potential total of £38,640.

Once again though, the council said the majority were paid within 21 days.

Cabinet member for schools and adult education, Councillor Eleanor Stringer, said a good school attendance is vital to a student's education.

"Merton schools have some of the best levels of attendance in England, thanks to the importance that our parents and pupils place on education,” she said.

“If some children miss school they miss out on learning, and this could affect their future success.

"These absences don’t only affect the pupil, but they can also cause disruption for teachers and the rest of their class.

"Fines are sometimes used, with the aim of encouraging families to help us to ensure that all Merton children and young people have the chance to benefit from the best possible education.”

When asked what the money is put towards, the council added that "all money raised from the fines issued to parents, for excessive levels of absence of their children, is ring fenced to be used only to fund the running of the penalty notice scheme.”