PARENTS in Bolton will face stricter penalties over term-time holidays after Bolton Council lowered the threshold for issuing fines.

The trigger for the the controversial £60 fine per parent and child will be reduced from 10 days absence to five days per term.

Town hall bosses insist the move is in response to calls from headteachers in a crackdown on the growing numbers of primary school and secondary pupils missing class.

They stressed headteachers have the final say on whether an absence is authorised or not — and as a result whether fines are issued or not.

The council carried out a consultation with headteachers in the borough, who “overwhelmingly” said they would like to see the trigger for issuing a penalty notice reduced for both family holidays and other unauthorised circumstances.

Only unauthorised absences lead to fines.

Education chiefs say that parents who believe they have “exceptional” circumstances about taking their child out of school should contact the headteacher as soon as possible outlining those.

Council officers say that attending school improves the chances of getting into a good college and university — and say that the controversial sanction does work, with holiday absences falling after “holiday fines” were introduced across the country in 2013. According to figures, Bolton Council is the second highest fining authority in Greater Manchester, with only Manchester City Council issuing more.

Cllr Anne Cunliffe, Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Looked After Children, Schools and Early Years, said: “Headteachers have for some time canvassed for tighter controls around persistent and unauthorised absences because not attending school regularly can have a serious and detrimental impact on a child’s attainment at any age.

“Last year alone, there were more than 45,000 days missed due to family holidays.

“In Bolton, unauthorised pupil absence has increased in recent years and our rate of persistent absence is greater than both the North West and national average.

“The number of penalty notices we issue is also rising, despite having one of the highest number of sessions in the region to trigger such action.”

She added that people who missed class, were putting a huge strain on already stretched resources as they played catch up for the time they had missed.

Cllr Cunliffe said that she sympathised with parents about the high cost of holidays out of term and called on the government to do more to tackle the hike in holiday prices over school breaks.

Phil Hart, the head teacher of Westhoughton High school and the chairman of Bolton Learning Alliance, said: “Whilst we understand that economic factors lead some parents to remove children from schools for holidays, we cannot condone the practice.

“Research is quite clear on the impact of absence when a young person’s peers are still learning in school. All secondary schools are committed to this change and we hope that it will reduce the learning days lost across the town. It will also align us closer to our neighbouring authorities.”

Only Rochdale has the same penalty notice trigger amount as Bolton. All other Greater Manchester authorities have a trigger of 10 sessions — or five days — except Manchester whose trigger is just six sessions, equivalent to three days.

A fixed penalty notice for persistent unauthorised absence is £60 — per parent and per child —if paid within 21 days. This rises to £120 if paid after this but before 28 days. If the notice remains unpaid, the local authority may consider legal action.

Bolton Council bosses say that the money raised is not an income generator and mainly goes on administering the department, with an extra being invested into education initiatives to promote good attendance. According to a BBC report, Bolton Council issued 1,172 fines in the last academic year, which is equivalent to 24.28 per 1,000 pupils.