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Thousands of parents fined, as persistent truancy falls

By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter

image copyrightScience Photo Library
image captionEducation Secretary Michael Gove said there was no excuse for missing school

Record numbers of parents in England have been issued with truancy fines, as the number of pupils persistently missing classes falls, data shows.

Government statistics show the number of truancy penalty notices issued went up by more than a quarter in the academic year 2012-13 to 52,370.

The data shows 300,895 pupils were "persistently absent" (missing 15% of school) - down from 333,850 in 2011-12.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said there was no excuse for missing school.

The figures show that 52,370 penalty notices of £60 were issued to parents and guardians for a child's unauthorised absence from school in 2012-13 - up from 41,224 (27%) in the previous year, 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, a parent 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 £3m.

'More usual' sickness

The figures 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 rise could be because of low levels of sickness the year before last, which have now returned to "more usual levels".

image captionMr Gove claims he is getting "tough on bad behaviour"

Mr 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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