A RECORD low number of fines were issued to Southampton parents after their children missed school last year.

But the city bucked the trend when compared to the rest of the county, as more fines were issued to Hampshire parents than almost anywhere else in England.

Department for Education data shows that 91 penalty notices were issued to Southampton parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21 – though measures did not apply for two months when schools were not open to all pupils.

Though no figures were available for 2019-20 because of the pandemic, the number of fines last year was down ​95% from 1,982 in 2018-19, and at the lowest level since comparable records began in 2009-10.

However, the same data shows that 946 penalty notices were issued to Hampshire parents for a child’s poor attendance in 2020-21.

The county council issued more fines than almost any other local authority in the country – accounting for 2% of all penalty notices handed out across England.

Of the fines last year, 814 (86%) were for unauthorised family holidays, while 24 (3%) were for being late.

Across England, the number of notices issued fell from 333,400 to just 45,800 over this period – a fall of 86%, and the lowest number since 2011-12.

Their use varied greatly in different parts of the country, with 15 local authorities issuing 10 or fewer.

Meanwhile, just a dozen areas were responsible for over a third of all fines nationally last year.

James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Fines have always been a blunt instrument when it comes to managing persistent absenteeism, and even more so if the reasons are related to the pandemic.

"Schools will be working closely with families where persistent absenteeism is an issue to provide the necessary support to help get pupils back into school.

"The reality is that if a parent is concerned enough about their child’s safety to keep them off school, the threat of a fine is unlikely to change their minds.”