MORE than 20 parents were hauled before the courts in the latest crackdown on truancy.

In one day magistrates in Southampton heard 23 cases against parents after their children had failed to attend lessons.

A total of £3,039 was handed out in fines and a further £2,490 collected in costs by the court.

One parent was fined £300, and ordered to pay £100 in costs after their child failed to attend school five times, from January to March, this year. One was fined £120 and another £80 in costs after their two children failed to attend school during a four-day period in March.

Most parents pleaded guilty to the offences, while others were proven guilty in their absence.

Parents who do not have the school’s permission for their child’s absence face a maximum fine of £60 per pupil, per parent. This rises to £120 if not paid within seven days.

Those who refuse to pay can face court action and, if prosecuted, a fine of up to £2,500 and a jail sentence of up to three months.

Southampton City Council handed out 948 parents during 2016-17, fining parents an estimated £56,880. This was down from 1,265 fines in 2014-15, raising £75,900.

Money raised from the fines is used to help pay for court costs and administration needed to oversee the fines.

A total of 149,321 in fines were handed out across the UK in 2016-17, compared with 157,879 the previous year. Data from a report from the Department of Education, released in March, revealed that 16.9 per cent, or one in six pupils, missed at least half a day during the 2016-17 school year, up from 14.7 per cent the previous year.The report also stated that the unauthorised absence rate is at its highest level since records began, rising from 1.1 per cent in 2015-16 to 1.3 per cent in 2016-17.The rise is believed to be as a result of an increase in absence due to families taking holidays in term time that were not agreed with schools.