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Record number of truant convictions

Record numbers of parents are being taken to court and convicted over child truancies, new figures have shown.

More than 10,600 people were prosecuted with over 8,000 convicted in 2009, according to Ministry of Justice statistics.

This means the equivalent of 56 parents or guardians were facing criminal proceedings every day of the school year.

Some 14 were sent to jail - just over one for every month - facing an average sentence of around one month, the figures show.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Press Association, show that 10,697 people in England were prosecuted for truancy-related offences in 2009. Of these, 8,330 were found guilty.

In 2008, 9,505 were taken to court, and 7,290 were convicted. In 2009, the vast majority, 5,326 people in total, were issued with fines, 2,381 were given an absolute discharge, 399 were given community sentences and 54 were handed suspended sentences.

Parents' groups warned that jailing parents was a "negative solution" to truancy, and that in many cases the parents have no control over making their child attend school.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of parenting website Netmums, said: "This seems to be something everyone's quite keen to get to grips with: it's known that youngsters who drop out of the education system have a bad prognosis for the future. But in terms of prosecutions this is an awful lot, and it's such a negative solution to the problem."

The threat of prosecution and the possibility of a jail term were part of new truancy sanctions introduced under the last Government.

Since the measures were introduced, the numbers facing prosecution have rocketed. In 2001, it is thought that around 1,900 people were prosecuted with around 1,500 convicted.

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