Thousands of parents face court action over children's truancy

More than 11,500 parents are facing prosecution over their children's truancy from school.

The families face fines of up to £2,500 or even three months in jail unless their children stop truanting, according to figures published yesterday. Jacqui Smith, the Schools minister, said many parents still needed to be "made to face up to their responsibilities".

A further 2,200 parents of persistent truants have been forced to sign "parenting contracts" to ensure that their child attends school. And 1,100 families have been issued with on-the-spot penalty notices of up to £100 since September after their child persistently skipped lessons. The clamp-down is part of the Government's Fast Track to Prosecution scheme, introduced in September.

Ms Smith said: "Fast Track shows that the possibility of swift prosecution backed up by targeted support for parents of persistent truants can focus minds and produce dramatic improvements in their children's attendance."

The figures come after a Government drive on truancy and disruptive behaviour in which Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, promised a "zero tolerance" approach to bad behaviour.

Six per cent more students were excluded last year for bad behaviour - the highest level for five years, the data also revealed.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, welcomed the figures' publication. "The increase in the number of exclusions should be taken as a sign that heads are tackling serious disciplinary issues with all the weapons at their disposal," he said.

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