MORE than 800 Hampshire parents were slapped with fines last year because of their children skiving school.

And the Department for education said more than 200 cases ended up in court.

The penalties were revealed as the latest truancy figures were published, showing that almost 7,000 secondary school children across Southampton and Hampshire were missing at least one month of school every year.

Ministers vowed to reduce the truancy rates, saying the effect on a child’s education was “permanent and damaging”.

Parents handed a penalty notice have to pay £50 within 28 days or £100 between 29 and 42 days. If they have refuse to pay they can be prosecuted by schools or the council.

There were 793 fines issued in Southampton last year, and 625 were paid within 28 days.

In the separate Hampshire County Council area, just 46 fines were issued and 22 prosecutions launched. Across the country, 40 per cent of fines were unpaid or withdrawn.

As reported by the Daily Echo, ministers have widened the definition of a “persistent absentee” in a move that will label thousands more children as repeat skivers. They hope this will persuade schools to take action earlier.

In Southampton, 11.5 per cent of secondary school children came into this category, a total of 1,193. In the county council area there were 5,531, but the rate of absenteeism was lower, at 7.9 per cent.

Across the country, the overall absence rate dropped slightly. Illness was by far the most common reason, followed by holidays.