Parent fines over child truancy rise
A rising number of parents in England have been fined for allowing their children to skip school, figures show.
In total, 41,224 penalty notices were issued in the academic year 2011/12, up from 32,641 the academic year before, Department for Education data shows.
More parents are facing prosecution for failing to pay their fines, with more than 6,300 taken to court in 2011/12.
Of the fines issued, 22,043 were paid within 28 days, after which time fines double to £120.
In 6,361 cases, a parent was prosecuted for non-payment of a fine.
The government statistics also show that fewer pupils were missing more than a month of school without permission.
In total, the percentage of children who are classified as "persistent absentees" (missing at least 19 days of school) dropped to 5.2% from 6.1% in the academic year 2010/11.
This means that 333,850 children were "persistent absentees" compared to 392,305 last year.
The latest absence statistics show that pupils in England missed 1% of school sessions in 2011/12, down slightly from 1.1% the year before.
The overall absence rate also fell from 5.8% to 5.1%.
This drop may be partly down to a "substantial" decrease in absence in the autumn term 2011, which was due to a number of factors, government statisticians suggest, including a drop in pupils taking time off ill and the fact that the Muslim festival Eid fell out of term time.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "If children are not in school they cannot learn.
"Too many children are still missing too many lessons. We must continue to tackle poor attendance and make sure every pupil gets a good education."
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said: "Schools put a lot of time and effort working with vulnerable families to help them find ways to make sure their children are in lessons, but sometimes they have no choice but to take a hard line.
"Allowing children to miss school disrupts their learning and puts them at a disadvantage in the long term."