Parents are increasingly finding themselves before a criminal court for letting their children play truant from Powys schools, new figures have revealed.

In the last school year, Powys County Council (PCC) successfully prosecuted 17 parents or guardians for failing to ensure their child attended school regularly.

The maximum penalty for the offence, under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996, is three months’ prison and a £2,500 fine.

While the number seems relatively low, in light of the fact there are more than 16,000 pupils registered at schools across the county, it is on the rise.

In the 2015/16 school year, nine parents were convicted of the offence, while in 2014/15 that number was just six – and before that, there were none at all.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, reveal that almost one in 12 pupils in Powys – a total of 1,285 – recorded 10 or more unauthorised absences in 2016/17. That’s five school days, or one week.

Unauthorised absences can be recorded for a host of reasons, from a term-time holiday to children skiving behind their parents’ back.

If 10 unauthorised absences are recorded in a single term, PCC can issues a Penalty Notice of £60, rising to £120 if not paid within 28 days. These can also be handed to parents whose children are persistently late.

In the 2016/17 academic year, 85 parents found themselves hit with this penalty. That number was 137 in 2015/16, and 32 in 2014/15, before which none was issued.

A PCC spokesperson said: “If the penalty is not paid then the local authority will consider issuing prosecution proceedings against parent(s) for the original offence, which is ‘failure to ensure regular attendance at school of the registered pupil’ under Section 444 (1) or (1A) of the Education Act 1996.

“It’s possible that while there are less pupils hitting the threshold for a notice, those that do are not paying the fine and still not sending them to school so the local authority has no choice but to follow through to prosecution.”