ONE in seven pupils who were stopped in a truancy sweep in Bury were absent without permission.

And a poll shows that some parents think this will not harm their education, despite the facts proving otherwise.

Bury MP Ivan Lewis, minister for young people and adult skills, said the figures underlined the need to take action.

In December, police and education welfare officers in Bury stopped 302 children, and 44 were found to be out of school without authorisation. Of this number, 23 were girls, and 40 were secondary school pupils.

Across the North West, 4,900 children were stopped, and 1,933 did not have a valid reason to be out of school. Some 980 of them were accompanied by an adult.

Meanwhile, a MORI poll shows that 40 per cent of parents who took their child out of school to go on holiday thought that it would not harm their education.

Mr Lewis, MP for Bury South, said there was a clear link between truancy, crime and unemployment.

"At a time when nearly half of all children are achieving five or more good GCSEs, only eight per cent of persistent truants achieve this standard," he said.

"Investment in our schools is at record levels, and Ofsted is reporting that teaching standards are the best ever. We must ensure that every child can take full advantage of this.

"While it should be remembered that parents can request a term-time absence of up to ten days in special circumstances, every day counts, and any kind of absence that has not been discussed with and authorised by the school should be seen as truancy."

The minister cited a range of Government measures to tackle truancy, including "fast track" prosecution for parents, fixed penalty notices, and parenting contracts.

He also said the Connexions Summer Plus schem which provides activities for young people was enjoying early success.