PARENTS were issued with tens of thousands of pounds in fines between them last year, after their children took unauthorised absences from school.

The biggest number was at St Joseph’s Catholic College where 115 families were given the £50 penalty between 2011 and 2012.

The fines, which are issued by Swindon Council on behalf of the college, resulted in £5,750 being paid out.

The year before the total was even higher, with 125 parents being issued with the charge after their children missed classes at the Ocotal Way campus.

Isambard Community School in North Swindon had the next biggest total in the last academic year with 93 fines, followed by Drove Primary School with 47 and Even Swindon Primary School with 32. Ridgeway in Wroughton issued 20 and Churchfields Academy 19 in.

The vast majority of fines were issued for holidays during term time, and some schools are understood to have stricter policies than others.

The figures were released by the council after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Adver.

In total, 415 parents were issued with fines last year, totalling £20,750, compared with 453 between 2010 and 2011.

A spokesman for the authority said: “We are asked to issue the fines by schools, and any money that we receive is ring-fenced and can only be used for improving attendances in schools across the borough, such as more promotion or leaflets and supporting the council’s education welfare team.

“If a child has been absent for five days, the education welfare team and the Children Missing Education Officer are informed and various actions can be taken, including home visits, liaising with other agencies involved with the family and identifying a lead professional who will offer support to the family.

“Action will also include contacting other local authorities to see if a child has moved out of Swindon, contacting health professionals to verify if a child is sick and, if necessary, taking legal action against parents for unauthorised absence.”