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Teaching unions attack plans to fine parents for 'holiday truancy'

Teaching unions have attacked proposed new anti-truancy laws that would see headteachers fine parents who take their children on holiday during term time.

As part of a campaign against truancy, ministers say parents who let their children miss school without the school's consent will face fixed penalty notices.

But issuing the fines would fall in part to headteachers and other school staff - a move rejected by both the Tory party and teaching unions, who said it was the job of police.

Powers to issue the fines, which have not yet been set, will be given to school staff, police, and local education officers under new anti-social behaviour legislation.

The Department for Education and Skills says the new laws will not just target youngsters hanging around shopping centres and housing estates, but parents who take their children on foreign holidays during school term without permission of the headteacher.

A spokeswoman said: "Any kind of absence that has not been authorised by the school is truancy, whether that is taking a child Christmas shopping, taking a Mediterranean holiday or just letting a child roam around the local housing estate."

Eamonn O'Kane, the NASUWT general secretary, said: "I certainly would reject that idea of school staff having that responsibility. It is a judicial process and it must remain in the hands of those such as the police or education welfare officers who have that power under the law.

"Certainly the school has the responsibility to record the fact that a youngster is on unjustified absence. But it would leave the school and the head teacher in an impossible position and it would create difficulties and tensions between the teachers and the parents."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: "I have no problem with the principle, I think it could well work. But I don't think it's the job of headteachers to go out into the shopping malls of this country during the day-time, seeking out truants and issuing them with fines."

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