Steep rise in prosecuted parents

Witney Gazette: Record numbers of parents have been prosecuted after their children skipped school Record numbers of parents have been prosecuted after their children skipped school

Record numbers of parents were hit with fines last year after their children skipped lessons, official figures show.

New statistics also show a steep rise in the number of parents prosecuted for failing to pay their penalties, with almost 8,000 cases taken to court.

In total, the number of penalty notices, collectively worth millions of pounds, rocketed by more than a quarter in the space of one school year, according to Government data.

The figures show that 52,370 £60 penalty notices were issued to parents and guardians for a child's unauthorised absence from school in 2012/13 - up 27% from 41,224 in 2011/12.

Of the fines handed out in the last academic year, 27,977 were paid within 28 days, after which the fine doubles to £120.

In 7,806 cases, someone was prosecuted for non-payment of a fine, up 23% from 2011/12.

An analysis of the figures suggests that if all £60 fines were paid within 28 days, the total amount collected would be more than £3.1 million.

The new statistics also show that, in total, pupils in England skipped 1% of half days without permission, known as "unauthorised absence" in 2012/13 - the same proportion as in 2011/12.

The overall absence rate - both authorised and unauthorised - rose slightly from 5.1% to 5.2%, according to the figure.

Government statisticians said the hike could be because of low levels of sickness the year before last, which have now returned to "more usual levels".

Fewer children are also missing a month of school a year without permission, the figures suggest.

In total, the percentage of children who are classed as "persistent absentees" dropped to 4.6% from 5.2% in 2011/12, with around 300,895 youngsters now falling into this category.

The Department for Education (DfE) said the number of persistent absentees is down almost a third compared with 2009/10.

Children are classed as persistent absentees if they miss more than 15% of school time, and around 130,000 fewer youngsters now meet this threshold than in 2009/10, the DfE said.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "There is no excuse for skipping school. We have taken action to reduce absence by increasing fines and encouraging schools to address the problem earlier.

"Today's figures show we are making progress, with 130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school under this Government.

"Alongside our measures to give teachers powers to search pupils and impose same-day detentions, this demonstrates our determination to get tough on bad behaviour."

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