A NORTHWICH headteacher has issued a ‘written warning’ to parents not to take their children out of school or risk being fined, following a huge spike in unauthorised absences.

Catriona Stewart, previously issued a warning to parents in October, after 227 days were missed by pupils in total.

Now, the headteacher has continued her renewed appeal to parents after a 500 per cent increase in the first few months of this school year.

At the point of November 20, 2016, 20.5 days of unauthorised absences were recorded at the school, taken by 14 families. At the same date this year, the number of days missed had shot up to 125, taken by 24 families.

In a message to parents, Catriona questioned whether a high-profile case in the Isle of Wight, where a father took the local authority to court over a fine for unauthorised absences, had made parents think they can evade fines.

She said: “I am not sure if the father on the Isle of Wight taking the local authority to court over his child’s very poor attendance of 92 per cent has caused people to think that it is OK to take holidays in term time and they won’t risk a fine – it isn’t and they do.”

Catriona went on to issue a ‘written warning’ to parents and advised that fines will be ‘highly likely’ in the future.

“I would like to respectfully remind all families that this father lost his case and the local authority were upheld in their position of issuing a fine,” she added.

“Due to the five-fold increase in unauthorised term time absence I will be managing any further unauthorised term time absence that meets the threshold for a Fixed Penalty Notice.

“I am sure you understand that the school has no option but to now address unauthorised absence as a priority for the school and that it will be to the benefit of all the children in school to reduce to minimum.

“I have checked the files and I have no requests for term time absence pending. Therefore, all families should consider this message as a written warning that it is highly likely that any further unauthorised absence will incur a fixed penalty notice.”

Despite this, Catriona pointed out the school’s good reputation for attendance, and said the written warning to parents is a way of ‘working with families’.

Catriona told the Guardian: “Last year our attendance was over 97.5 per cent, and that is classed as good. We’ve had excellent attendance since 2004 and we want to keep it that way. That’s why we want to work with families when we notice that the numbers start to dip.”