The proportion of school fines being handed out to Isle of Wight parents for unauthorised school absences has more than doubled in a year.

The Isle of Wight remains top of the table for the proportion of parents being fined, at 135 per one thousand pupils for the 2017/18 academic year.

This is a rise of 110 per cent compared to the previous year’s figure of 64 per one thousand.

A total of 2,015 fines were handed out across the Island — an average of one for every seven children.

Business owner, Jon Platt, said the figures were ‘astonishing’, but he was not surprised by the spike.

He said that following his high-profile court case, local authorities had become stricter enforcing fines against parents.

Mr Platt was fined after taking his daughter on holiday to Florida during term time — a case that was taken all the way to the Supreme Court.

He lost the case, and faced a legal bill of £30,000.

He said:

“The Isle of Wight has some of the most draconian interpretations of the law.

“The spike in fines began when headteachers lost their discretion to grant authorised absences.”

In September 2013, the government changed the law so headteachers could only grant absences in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Mr Platt said:

“The council are saying people on the Isle of Wight are criminals — that one in seven parents are criminals. Could you say that about any other cross-section of society?

“Parents aren’t taking more holidays, but the council is taking a more draconian view.”

However, cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Paul Brading, said the council had a ‘robust and consistent policy’ which all headteachers followed.

He said the spike was a national trend, but nothing had changed on how the council was enforcing fines.

On the Isle of Wight, parents are fined if their children fail to attend ten sessions over the course of an academic year. One session is equivalent to a morning, or an afternoon.

Parents who fail to make sure their children attend regularly can be fined £60 per child, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days. After 28 days, parents can be prosecuted.

Five local authorities in England issued no fines for pupil absences.

Cllr Brading said:

“To me, it’s about making sure children are in school. If they have good attendance they will do well.”

Last year, the Isle of Wight agreed to an extended two-week half term in the autumn, in a bid to prevent parents from taking children out of school during term time.

Cllr Brading said attendance for primary aged pupils was slightly better than the national average on the Isle of Wight, although they had faced ‘problems’ with secondary attendance.

He said:

“This is not a money-making exercise. The council makes no money from school fines. We have a policy that is robustly and consistently applied across Isle of Wight schools.”

Mr Platt said there was a ‘very worrying’ correlation between the high number of fines, the levels of home educating on the Isle of Wight and the number of children admitted to hospital for mental health issues.

He said:

“Perhaps the reason is that it is getting too much for parents and their children.”

Mr Platt has now put all his children into private education, exempting himself from further fines from the council.

Across the UK, the number of penalty notices rose by almost 93 per cent last year.

In Hampshire, the number of fines issued per one thousand pupils was 40. Portsmouth saw 55 per 1,000 issued and Southampton 50.

By Megan Baynes, Local Democracy Reporter.