Sixty five fines were handed out to parents in Cumbria last year for their children's absences from school.

Mums and dads were given the cash penalty after the county council acted over pupils persistently failing to turn up to class.

It says it only does this after other measures fail, acting to improve attendance to benefit the pupils' education.

Latest figures revealed the total number of fines had dropped, with numbers down by more than 50 per cent on the year before.

Cumbria also has a lower rate of fines than the national average.

The figures, from the Department for Education, cover the 2016/17 academic year - last year's school year.

A Cumbria County Council spokesman said: "The council issues fixed penalty notices to parents when a child has persistent unauthorised absences from school.

"Penalty notices are only issued to encourage improved attendance and only after other options have been exhausted.

"Should a fixed penalty notice fail to secure improved attendance, the council will consider bringing a prosecution to court.

"This only occurs in a very small number of cases each year."

Fines are £60 if paid within 21 days and £120 within 28 days.

Councils can prosecute parents if penalty notices remain unpaid after 28 days.

Last year, one case was taken to court in Cumbria for non-payment, according to the figures.

The council spokesman added: "The purpose of issuing penalty notices or pursuing prosecutions is ultimately to benefit the child by ensuring their attendance at school improves.

"The council employs access and inclusion officers who work closely with schools in Cumbria, families and other agencies to address attendance concerns and to promote the benefits of regular school attendance."

Local authorities impose their own rules on when parents can be given penalty notices over their children's absence from school.

In Cumbria, one notice is issued for every 1,000 pupils, compared to 22 for England.

Across England, 149,321 penalty notices were issued to parents in 2016/17, itself a five per cent drop on the previous year.

Darren Northcott, the national official for education at the teachers' union NASUWT, spoke on the issue.

He said: "We have always been clear: absences during term time should only occur in very exceptional circumstances, such as illness and family emergencies.

"Every day in school counts and every lesson counts.

"Fines are an absolute last resort and only given if families have had the support they need to try and improve their absence rates."