Parents in Cumbria spent almost £9,000 in the last two years in fines for unauthorised absences from school.

Freedom of information requests submitted by The Knowledge Academy have revealed that the number of penalty notices issued to parents and carers for unauthorised absences of their children have risen by 18 per cent between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Although the number of penalty notices has risen, the income generated by the county council has dropped year-on-year because some parents fail to pay them.

In 2017/18, 89 penalty notices were issued and the county paid £4,440 in fines.

But in 2018/19, the amount paid dropped to £4,320, despite 105 penalty notices being issued.

A county council spokesman said parents and carers cannot be forced to pay the fines, but if that happens, prosecution is considered.

A county council spokesman said: “The council issues fixed penalty notices to parents when a child has persistent unauthorised absences from school.

"Penalty notices are only issued as a last resort to encourage improved attendance, and only after other options have been exhausted.

"Should a fixed penalty notice fail to secure improved attendance, the council will consider bringing a prosecution to court. This only occurs in a very small number of cases each year. The purpose of issuing penalty notices and / or prosecutions is ultimately to benefit the child by ensuring their attendance at school improves.

"The council employs access and inclusion officers who work closely with schools in Cumbria, families and other agencies to address attendance concerns and to promote the benefits of regular school attendance, including guidance for parents on how to pay penalty notices.”

The county council said the money from the fines is reinvested to administer the scheme.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), local authorities issued over 260,000 penalty notices to parents for unauthorised absences in 2017/2018 – 110,000 more than the previous year.

Councils can give each parent a fine of £60, which rises to £120 each if it is not paid within 21 days.

If the fine is not paid after 28 days, parents may be prosecuted for the child’s absence.