THE number of Southend parents being fined for letting their children play truant has reduced dramatically, as a result of initiatives to tackle the problem.

In 2013, almost one parent a week was fined for unauthorised school absences. So far this year, Southend council has imposed just three £60 fines.

The council says the change is down to its work with schools to reduce truancy, including patrols in areas where pupils are known to play truant.

The council’s new child and family early intervention team is working with young people and their families to help them get more involved with the education system.

Early intervention, the council says, helps prevent truancy and related problems from escalating and means fines are now only imposed in exceptional circumstances.

Parents and children are also being asked to take part in a survey which the council hopes will further boost school attendance.

James Courtenay, Southend councillor responsible for children and learning, said: “It’s vital our children and young people are given every opportunity and encouragement to make the most of each day at school.”

Shoeburyness High School, St Nicholas School and Blenheim Primary School have all started prize draws as an added incentive to reward pupils with the best attendance rates.

Shoeburyness High School headteacher Mark Schofield said: “We are extremely proud of our students and their significant improvement in attendance this year.

“Our current attendance rate is a testament to the fantastic work of all the people involved.

“These include our very supportive parents, staff at the school providing engaging lessons and an attendance team which works very closely with the council’s team.”