A COUPLE were warned to "keep their heads out of the sand" to prevent their son's continual absence from school.

District Judge Michael Wood gave the warning to Andrew and Denise Jakeway, after he heard of their repeated failure to ensure 13-year-old son Liam attended Seaham School of Technology, in County Durham.

Judge Wood, sitting at Durham Magistrates' Court, was told Liam turned up for only 69 of 170 school days between February 2 and November 30, representing a 40 per cent attendance record.

Educational welfare officer Nicola Bowman, prosecuting for Durham County Council, said anything less than 87 days attendance over that period contravened the terms of the 1996 Education Act.

"Steps were taken to try to sort out the matter, including eight home visits, telephone calls and visiting cards were left."

The Jakeways were eventually given a £50 fixed penalty fine, on July 8.

As they failed to respond within 28 days, it rose to £100, but this also went unpaid.

Ms Bowman said they failed to attend meetings arranged with both the school headteacher and at the school welfare office, in Peterlee.

"The prosecution was brought as a last resort because of the persistent lack of co-operation of the parents," she said.

Mr Jakeway, 41, and his 34-year-old wife, of Wilkins Road, Murton, east Durham, admitted failing to ensure Liam attended school.

David Harbron, for the couple, said although they pleaded 'guilty', they believed Liam was attending school, as he left on time to catch the school bus, even going on to the school grounds, before leaving the premises.

But Judge Wood interrupted: "They would have soon known he wasn't going in as the school would have contacted them.

"They basically buried their heads in the sand."

Mr Harbron said: "They have, now, pulled their heads out of the sand and are determined to face up to this." A meeting is arranged with the school headteacher in January, which they intend to attend, "to sort it out".

"They are good parents and have a 15-year-old daughter with a 99.2 per cent attendance record," added Mr Harbron.

Imposing six-month conditional discharges on both parents, Judge Wood told the Jakeways: "I hope you will take on board you have a problem and you need to deal with it."

Both were ordered to pay £65 costs.