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Number of parents punished for children skipping school rises

Official figures has shown that the number of parents that have been taken to court for skipping school rose sharply over the past year.

In 2014, 16,430 people were prosecuted for failing to ensure their children went to school, which is an increase of more than 3,000 – or 25% – on 2013.

Parents with truant children can be issued an on-the-spot penalty notices of £60 per child by schools if their child has an unauthorised absence, which can rise to £120 if unpaid after three weeks.

2014 figures were taken from a freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice in and revealed that 12,479 people were found guilty of truancy offences, which is up 22%.

There were also 18 jail sentences in 2014 compared to seven in 2013, of which ten of those jailed and more than half of those that were fined were women.

Failure to pay leads to parents being referred to the local authority’s education welfare service, who have the power to take them to court.

Courts can issue maximum fines of £2,500 or jail sentences of up to three months.

The Department of Education has said that “Heads and teachers are now firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and most recent figures show we have made real progress – with 200,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school compared with five years ago.”

But David Simmonds, of the Local Government Association does not feel as strongly towards the practice, calling for more flexibility.

He said parents “should be trusted to make decisions about a child’s absence from school without being forced to issue fines and start prosecutions in situations where they believe the absence is reasonable”.

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