PARENTS have condemned an “insulting” campaign to cut school absenteeism.

Thousands of people have signed a petition against East Sussex County Council’s tough new attendance drive, which warns parents they will be fined if their child misses lessons without permission.

The campaign features slogans such as “Get a Grip” and “Don’t be a Mug” and is running on radio, bus stops and social media.

But parents say it is “aggressive, condescending, insulting, inappropriate for the purpose and will probably prove to be counter productive”.

Ben Westwood, a journalist and lecturer from Polegate, said: “It’s very offensive. I received the leaflet from my daughter last week.

“It’s struck a chord with parents, for whom the most important thing is looking after our kids – it implies we’re not responsible parents.”

Both Mr Westwood’s children are currently off school sick with a viral infection.

He said: “Encouraging parents to send their kids in when they’re not well isn’t right.”

The petition, which has gained about 6,500 signatures so far, calls on the council to withdraw the campaign and apologise.

A spokeswoman for the council acknowledged the move has been controversial, but said school attendance levels in the area were not good enough.

She said the authority “will not flinch” from addressing the issue.

Announcing the campaign at the beginning of the school year, the council warned parents that they could be fined for unauthorised absences, and suggested that children should attend school even if they have a minor cough or cold.