"We need a clear message that a basic responsibility for a parent in a civilised society is to get their child to school," Education Minister Ivan Lewis told BBC radio. "Fixed penalty notices are part of a range of measures we're introducing."

Of the 50,000 children who truant every day in Britain, 50% do so with the collusion of their parents, Lewis said. The BBC said the proposed fines would range from £25-100 ($40-160) and would be imposed by head teachers, police or local government officials in England and Wales.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made cutting truancy and combating the growing problem of bad behaviour in schools a priority of his government. The Education Department blames 40% of street crime and 25% of burglaries on 10 to 16-year-olds who skipped classes. Parents of children who persistently miss classes already face fines of up to £2500 ($3800) or even a jail term.

Hard core

Since Blair's government came to office in 1997, it has spent almost £600 million on programmes to improve school attendance and behaviour. The department of education has claimed a "modest improvement" on last year, as the daily number of truants has fallen by about 700.

Lewis said the new, instant fines would apply to "a hard core, a minority (of parents) who are very, very well known to the system indeed, who go through stage after stage of positive support, various interventions, and it doesn't change the fact that those children are not going to school."