PARENTS in Southampton were slapped with nearly 2,000 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 1,982 penalty notices were issued to Southampton parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2018-19.

Of these, 92 per cent were handed out for an unauthorised family holiday​.

Over the same period, the rate of unauthorised absence – the proportion of all available half-day school periods missed without permission – ​rose marginally, ​from ​1.9 per cent to 2 per cent.

A Southampton City Council spokesperson said: “We want all children in Southampton to get a good education and the first step to achieving this is ensuring excellent school attendance. Through our School Attendance and Inclusion group, which is co- chaired by heads from primary, secondary and special schools, we ensure a consistent approach to reducing absence across the city.

“Schools in Southampton are responsible for maintaining and implementing their own attendance policies and use their discretion when deciding whether or not to authorise absence.

“Head teachers can request the local authority, subject to meeting criteria in the penalty notice code of conduct, issue a penalty notice to improve attendance.

“All such requests are treated on a case-by-case basis , with the key consideration as to whether issuing a penalty notice will help to improve the child’s attendance.

“We support head teachers efforts to reduce absence and will use all the parental responsibility measures to enforce attendance available to us in a way that is firm but fair.”

Data has also revealed that 8,946 penalty notices were issued to Hampshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2018-19 – a three per cent rise on the previous school year.

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

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.”

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

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 and in Southampton, 1,182 fines worth £70,920 were paid within this time.The fee rises to £120 if paid between 22 and 28 days.

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 and in Southampton, four fines issued in 2018-19 ended in prosecution.