Thousands of parents taken to court for pupil absence
The number of parents being taken to court for their child's truancy rose by a quarter last year, with thousands more facing legal action.
In total, 16,430 people in England were prosecuted for failing to ensure that their child attended school in 2014 – equivalent to about 86 cases for each day of the school year. This is a significant increase on 2013, when 13,128 people were taken to court.
The hike follows a major crackdown on pupil absence, including strict rules on term-time holidays that were introduced two years ago.
Ministry of Justice figures obtained by the Press Association also show that growing numbers of parents are being convicted of truancy offences. They face fines, and in some cases are even sent to jail.
Headteachers said that although it was not always easy for parents to ensure that their child went to school, particularly with teenagers, it was their responsibility and they should inform the school of any problems.
The figures, obtained via a Freedom of Information request, show that of those parents taken to court in 2014, 76 per cent (12,479) were found guilty, a rise of 22 per cent on 2013.
The number of fines handed out by the courts rose by 30 per cent between 2013 and 2014. Last year, 9,214 parents were issued with fines – 74 per cent of those who were found guilty. On average, they were ordered to pay £172.
The figures also show that the number of parents handed jail time has more than doubled. Eighteen people were given custodial sentences in 2014, up from seven the year before.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Good attendance is absolutely critical to the education and future prospects of young people. Research has repeatedly and clearly shown that young people whose attendance is good are far more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs.
"Schools have rightly responded to this overwhelming evidence by taking a strong line in identifying when children are absent without a valid reason, particularly where there is persistent truancy. They work closely with education welfare officers, and where they cannot obtain a response from parents are now more likely to move to court action at an early stage."
The Department for Education said it was a "myth" that missing school was harmless to a child’s education.
"Our evidence shows missing the equivalent of just one week a year from school can mean a child is a quarter less likely to achieve good GCSE grades, having a lasting effect on their life chances," a spokesperson said.
“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.”