Eight thousand Birmingham schoolchildren missed more than seven weeks of school last year, according to figures.
Attendance data collected by Birmingham City Council found that 4,600 secondary and 3,400 primary pupils were absent for nearly one in every five school days during the 2009/10 academic year.
A council report into pupil attendance revealed truancy was “rarely” the reason for students missing school for long periods of time, but that the “vast majority” of the absences had been condoned by parents or carers.
Reasons for city pupils missing school for more than seven weeks did include illness, but also family holidays during term time and “deliberate non-attendance”.
One city head teacher who turned around attendance at his secondary school said he “wasn’t frightened” to use powers, including issuing penalty notices to parents, to ensure pupils came to class.
Liam Nolan, head teacher of Perry Beeches School in Great Barr, said: “When I first came to Perry Beeches attendance was around 80 per cent and now it is 96 per cent.
“We worked hard here to create a school environment where students want to be, and Ofsted said in their report that it was like a second home, a place where students feel safe and secure. I write to all parents every year to remind them that holidays can’t be taken during term time and I would have no worries of following legislation to fine parents.
“We are not frightened to use our powers of prosecution if necessary, but it is a last resort, and we have a full-time education social worker to work with students and families.”
The council report also identified white pupils as the “most vulnerable group” for non-attendance of pupils on free school meals.
The percentage of white boys’ attendance more than 3.5 per cent below the local authority average of 93.55 per cent, with girls faring slightly better at 90 per cent.
Comparative figures for the 2008/09 academic year were not readily available.
Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Hunt, chair of Birmingham City Council’s education watchdog committee, said the figures showed the “challenge” schools faced to encourage good attendance.
He said: “8,000 is a lot and the report does identify those groups who are at risk of not getting a decent education.
“Schools need to work to support to support those pupils and families to encourage them to attend.”