PARENTS in Dorset were slapped with more than £200,000 worth 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 2,790 penalty notices were issued to parents in the Dorset Council area for a child’s poor attendance at school in 2018-19.

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

In the BCP Council area, 1,903 notices were issued, 82 per cent for unauthorised holiday.

Dorset Council collected around £130,000 and BCP collected nearly £90,000.

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”.

Previous local data was not available, but 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.”

Penalty notices are £60 if paid within 21 days of being issued. 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.

​Across the county, 117 fines issued in 2018-19 ended in prosecution.