4,000 parents prosecuted over pupil truancy
More than 4,000 parents were prosecuted by local authorities after their children played truant or because they did not pay fines.
New government figures for April to August 2008 show that 7,793 penalty notices were issued and 3,223 were still unpaid after 42 days. Local authorities prosecuted 1,670 people for non-payment. The figures also show that 1,060 notices were withdrawn, mostly because mistakes were made when they were issued.
Kent issued the largest number of penalty notices, at 544, followed by Liverpool with 477. The majority of local authorities issued fewer than 100.
The same statistics show 8,013 parenting contracts were offered by local authorities for unauthorised absence, up more than a third compared to the first quarter of the year and 41 per cent up on the same period in 2007. Only 6,861 were accepted by parents.
There has been a dramatic reduction in the number of contracts offered to parents in some local authorities. In April to August 2007, 441 contracts were offered to Dudley parents but none were accepted. For the same period in 2008, 84 were offered and 76 accepted.
The number of parents accepting contracts in Kent rose from 77 in April to August 2007 to 230 for the same period a year later.
Some local authorities have almost doubled the number of contracts offered to parents. In Stoke-on-Trent, the figure rose from 206 to 455 in a year. Nearly all the latest contracts were accepted, compared to just 99 the previous year. In Sunderland, 706 contracts were issued and all were accepted.
In fast-tracked cases of unauthorised absence, 2,723 parents were prosecuted; 5,152 cases were withdrawn before prosecution - 3,692 of them because the pupils' attendance had improved.