School Leaders Scotland (SLS), a union representing secondary heads, called for alternative strategies after it emerged that one council had failed to secure convictions in more than 95 per cent of court cases.
In the last five years education officials at North Lanarkshire have taken 74 parents to court after their children failed to attend school but only three parents have been convicted.
Since 2008 no convictions have been secured out of 43 court cases.
Ken Cunningham, general secretary of SLS, said: “We would like to see local authorities being able to adopt a more flexible approach, rather than being in the position of pursuing court every time or never being able to use the courts.”
Mr Cunningham, a former headteacher at Hillhead High in Glasgow, urged schools to look at the context of each case, as truancy stemmed from various factors.
“Clearly, taking parents to court has proved hugely time-consuming, bureaucratic and the end result is ineffective,” he continued.
Jane Liddell, North Lanarkshire head of education quality and development, said: “School provides young people with the best possible chance in life and all parents have a legal duty to ensure their children attend.”
She added: “We have been actively pursuing parents whose children fail to attend, but with little success in the courts. The service continues to review its processes to improve school attendance.”
Councils are obliged to opt either for a truancy policy that means parents of non-attending pupils are taken to court, as in North Lanarkshire, or one that demands they implement alternative strategies.
The average truancy rate for pupils from years S1 to S5 was about three per cent in 2011, according to Scottish government figures.