PARENTS in Hampshire were slapped with thousands of fines after their children missed school last year, new figures reveal.

The Association of School and College Leaders says absence is not only disruptive to the pupil concerned but their peers and teachers as well, and has urged parents to follow the rules.

Department for Education data shows that 8,946 penalty notices were issued to Hampshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2018-19 – at three per cent rise on the previous school year.

Of these, 96 per cent were handed out for an unauthorised family holiday​, while 1 per cent were for lateness.

Over the same period, the rate of unauthorised absence – the proportion of all available half-day school periods missed without permission – ​stayed the same, ​at ​ 1.0 per cent.

Penalties for poor school attendance have surged over the last few years nationally, following a high-profile court case involving Jon Platt.

Mr Platt initially had a fine overturned by magistrates after taking his daughter to Disneyland during term time. The judgment was later upheld by the High Court.

But the Supreme Court found against him in 2017, ruling that no child should be off school without good reason and clarifying that regular attendance meant "in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school".

Across England, fines rose by 28 per cent to more than 333,000 in 2018-19. This followed a 75 per cent increase the previous year.

The vast majority of these (86 per cent) were for unapproved term-time holidays.

The DfE said many councils cited the Supreme Court judgment when asked to explain large increases.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of ASCL, said the significant number of fines showed the sanctions were an imperfect solution, but added that they were better than no deterrent at all.

He said: “A term-time holiday disrupts not only the learning of the child concerned but is also more widely disruptive to the school in general.

“Teachers have to help the pupil who has missed lessons to catch up, adding to their workload and potentially taking time away from other pupils.

“We understand the difficulty of affording the cost of holidays during peak season, but the rules are there for the good of all children in the school community, and we would appeal to all parents to respect this fact.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said the real problem was holiday pricing.

“Neither parents nor schools set the prices of holidays. They will both continue to be caught between a rock and a hard place without some sensible government intervention,” he added.

Penalty notices are £60 if paid within 21 days of being issued – in Hampshire, 7,616 fines worth £456,960 were paid within this time.

The fee rises to £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days – this was the case on 58 occasions in the area, equivalent to £6,960.

If the penalty is still outstanding after this, the council must either prosecute for the original offence or withdraw the notice.

​In Hampshire, 347 fines issued in 2018-19 ended in prosecution.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Local authorities now have greater clarity on when they can issue fines to parents who take their children out of school without good reason – and this is reflected in the increase.”